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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: new york times

Is Joe Biden’s Approval Rating In ‘Free Fall’? Nope

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Amid breathless reports of a political "free fall" and reeling from the White House's "summer from hell," the Beltway press has leaned into the idea that Joe Biden's presidency is unraveling — that his approval rating is in a state of collapse.

Except it's not true. Instead, it's the media falling in love with their favorite Dems In Disarray storyline. The same media that shrugged at Trump's chronically awful approval rating.

In a typical, overheated dispatch, a CNBC report recently announced, "Biden's Approval Ratings Have Plummeted, and That Could Spell trouble for Democrats in Congress." First off, the idea that Biden's approval rating in September 2021, is going to impact the outcome of November 2022 midterms makes no sense. Secondly, Biden's approval rating has fallen a grand total of four points in the past month, according to the polling average tabulated at FiveThirtyEight. So much for the "plummet."

Is Biden's' approval rating down this summer? It is, to 46 percent. Is he in some sort of manic freefall as the press suggests, fueled by the troop pullout from Afghanistan and the Delta surge? He is not.

A true ratings collapse would be like when President Ronald Reagan's approval dropped nine points in five days when the Iran Contra scandal broke. Or when George W. Bush's cratered 16 points in three months following the launch of the disastrous Iraq War.

Here are the Biden approval ratings from last 15 polls posted at FiveThirtyEight, minus the Rasmussen surveys, which are notoriously pro-Republican: 46, 44, 47, 47, 49, 47, 48, 42, 48, 49, 47, 44, 47, 50, 48.

If you take out the high (50) and the low (42) data points, the results have been markedly consistent this month. Where's the plummet?

When a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Biden's approval at 42 percent, Newsweek announced, "Joe Biden's Approval Rating Continues to Sink, Shows No Signs of Improving." Newsweek then ignored the fact that the next seven polls released after Quinnipiac all showed him improving.

The cherry picking seems intentional. When a NPR/PBS voter survey in early September showed Biden's approval at 43 percent, CNN's Chris Cillizza pounced: "This Poll Number Will Send Democrats Into a Panic." A week later though, Cillizza was silent when CNN's own poll found Biden's approval climbing to 52 percent.

CNN seemed to struggle with how to cover its good-news-for-Biden poll when the Beltway's preferred narrative was his "summer from hell." This was CNN's online headline for a story that showed Biden with a strong approval rating: "Americans Turn Pessimistic Amid Concerns Over Economy and Coronavirus." Later in a news segment, when a CNN anchor suggested the network's latest showing had Biden's rating at 43 percent, she had to be corrected by a guest who pointed out CNN's survey showed a 52 percent mark.

Biden's summertime slide has been fueled by Afghanistan and Covid, two unique and pressing challenges. But it also represents a natural progression for first term presidents as the so-called "honeymoon" with voters slowly wears off. Between being sworn in January 2009, and September 1 of that year, President Barack Obama, a successful two-term president, lost seven points on his approval rating, which is exactly how many points Biden has dipped since his inauguration.

Note that as with Biden, the press often obsessed over minor downward movements in Obama's approval in order to concoct a narrative about a president "sinking" and "plunging." At one point, a New York Times editorial was so anxious to push a narrative about Obama's supposedly broken presidency, it fabricated his approval rating, claiming it was 40 percent in a new poll, when it was actually 50 percent in that new survey.

The contrast with how the press has treated the popularity of the last two Democratic presidents with how they treated Trump's unpopularity couldn't be more startling.

When Biden's approval rating first fell below 50 percent this summer, it was considered newsworthy, as pundits weigh in on the approval "slide" and wondered if the Afghanistan story was going to doom his presidency. Rarely included in that heavy-handed analysis was the fact that at the same point in his presidency, Trump was sitting at a woeful 37 percent approval rating.

While Trump wallowed in abysmal ratings for most of his presidency (he never cracked 50 percent), the press mostly looked away, treating his poor standing as being usual. It was normalized.

Here's a quick example. In October, 2018 Politico published a piece about Trump's fire hose, "new media strategy," where he appeared on TV without pause and constantly answered reporters' shouted questions at the White House. In the eyes of Politico, it was a novel and winning strategy — it "worked" for Trump. And Politico even singled out Trump's top aide who was responsible for the approach.

Of course, what Politico never mentioned, and what the D.C. press didn't really think mattered in October 2018, was that Trump's approval stood at a lowly 41 percent.

Can you imagine today if Biden's approval fell five more points, to 41 percent, and the Beltway press started writing stories about how smart his communications strategy was? It's inconceivable because Democrats are held to a tougher media standard.

Beltway Media Blame Biden For Vaccine Refusal, Ignore Fox Brainwashing

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Busy extending the list of "crises" that President Joe Biden must face, the Beltway media are busy adding Covid vaccinations as a looming failure for the Democrat, as the nation readies a national mandate for the inoculations.

By putting the onus on Biden for the millions of defiant Trump voters who refuse to take the free, safe, and effective shot even as their neighbors become sick and die around them, the press is boosting the GOP — and missing a huge story.

We're witnessing one of the great mass brainwashings in American political history, as millions of Fox News Covid zombies eagerly swallow an ocean of lies, distortions, and misinformation. Yet the press blames Biden for not being able to convince them otherwise. Worse, the press blames the president without ever acknowledging the large-scale brainwashing that is happening.

Uncomfortable with reporting on a conservative movement that has lost touch with reality, the Beltway media are much more comfortable treating the vaccine story as one about a Democratic president who's failing to properly communicate and persuade. And one who's being outmaneuvered by Republicans.

Incredibly, the Washington Post recently cited as a "political win" for the GOP the fact that "Republican governors in several states have also had success in undermining Biden's efforts to require masks for schoolchildren and others in an effort to limit Covid-19 spread."

In a headline that was later changed, the Associated Press claimed that with his mandate announcement last week Biden had declared "war on the unvaccinated."

The New York Times announced, "Delta's rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus," in a type of dispatch that has been repeated nonstop by news outlets in recent weeks.

Virtually every reporter is working from the same script: Covid is surging and deaths are up because of Biden's "inability" to persuade vaccine "skeptics." What the Times report never addressed, and virtually none of them ever do, is that the reason millions of Americans still won't get vaccinated is because there is a choreographed, deep-pocketed political and media campaign designed to make sure millions of people don't get vaccinated. Period.

The press wants us to believe this is all just happening, by chance. It's not. Biden is battling powerful forces that reject science and are committed to prolonging the pandemic. That's essential to understand our continued health crisis, yet the press refuses to address it. Holding vaccine dead enders responsible for their actions is just not something they want to do.

Following Biden's Covid address to the nation on Thursday, CNN's Jake Tapper not only deducted points for the president's supposed "scolding tone," but the CNN anchor suggested Trump voters should not be singled out for extending the deadly pandemic. By Tapper's telling, because Trump voters are being lied to about the vaccine by far-right players, it's the liars who are to blame — who are the "villains" — not the millions of people who willingly embrace the falsehoods.

Last month, the Times posted a seven-minute, narrated report about an Arkansas community in the Ozarks with a ridiculously low vaccination/high Covid rate. "Rhetoric on freedom and choice is dissuading people from getting the shot, at a terrible cost," the Times tweeted, while promoting the clip. But who was responsible for the rhetoric that was creating a"terrible cost"? The seven-minute Times report never mentioned Fox News and never addressed who was pumping out all the Covid lies. But the report did capture lots of Arkansas locals spouting virus untruths: "We're talking about an unproven, untested vaccine."

Eight months after the vaccine arrived we know millions of Trump voters won't take it. That's not the news, although it remains a simple story to tell — and to blame Biden. Instead, journalists ought to be telling the harder truths and fixating on the why, and specifically calling out the forces at play.

The Times' Arkansas report did acknowledge "misinformation certainly exists here," but that single sentence represented the entirety of the coverage of that topic. The report also never mentioned "Republican," and instead referenced "leaders" who have politicized the vaccine.

Just yesterday, the Times published a piece, "How Outrage Over Vaccine Mandates Became a Mainstream GOP Stance," and failed to reference Fox News, which has aired hysterical, non-stop attacks on the federal mandate since it was announced. Fact: That's how outrage over common-sense mandates became mainstreamed within the GOP. Also on Sunday, the Times produced, "The U.S. is Falling to the Lowest Vaccination Rates of the World's Wealthiest Democracies," which included not one sentence addressing the why.

More recently, CNN produced its own 10-minute video about another poorly vaccinated Ozarks community, in Carter County Missouri. CNN spent days interviewing locals who regurgitated anti-virus rhetoric: "I ain't takin' that shit." "There's not enough research on it." "I believe if the good Lord wants me right now it doesn't matter if I take a vaccine or if I don't."

CNN omitted all references to Fox News or the Republican Party, and other bad-faith actors who have brainwashed so many people into thinking the Covid vaccine is evil despite the fact that inoculations have been part of everyday American life for decades — school children all across the country are not allowed to attend classes without vaccines for measles, mumps and many other diseases.

As with the Times report, the CNN segment was exceedingly gracious while interviewing Trump voters as they spewed nonstop misinformation about the vaccine and prolonged the pandemic.

Beltway Press Fawned Over Trump Voters — Now They’re COVID Zombies

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Willfully risking death by refusing to take the miraculously safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, Trump voters nationwide have embarked on one of the deadliest and most illogical movements in American history — they've morphed into QAnon-fueled, brainwashed, Covid zombies, immune to rational thought.

Fresh off of backing a deadly insurrection and trying to overturn free and fair elections, they have set their sights on extinguishing American norms.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Thursday in hopes of creating a path forward out of the pandemic entirely because Covid zombies, a radical menace, refuse to get vaccinated. They, along with local Republican officials, help fuel the Delta surge, which has shuttered school districts nationwide and set off local mayhem as Trump voters wage war on mask mandates. "Fights broke out and at least one person was handcuffed after a Missouri school board voted unanimously to mandate masking in schools amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the area," read a recent dispatch.

The zombies are part of a deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going, and gladly risking infections by embracing anti-science demagoguery.

What's telling is that while Trump was in the White House and the Beltway press glowingly profiled his supporters, preferably in red state diners, that's not the story the media were telling. Anxious to brush off claims of liberal media bias, reporters fanned out to Trump bastions to eagerly record every utterance from his supporters. We witnessed a conveyor belt of stories about blue-collar voters in virtually all-white counties inside red states announcing that they really, really like Trump. ("Hitting it out of the ballpark"; "I think he's doing a great job.")

Yet virtually none of that gentle coverage hinted at a radical, conspiratorial dark side at play. Routinely depicted as hard-working folks in search of a political path, and thankful for Trump leadership, the Trump voter coverage deliberately failed to pull back the curtain and reveal even small glimpses of today's manic, anti-mask and anti-vaccine mobs. Instead, the press presented a gauzy fantasy about what was going on in conservative America.

Committed to the idea that Trump's white voters were the most important, and most authentic, voices in American politics, the media spent years celebrating them, marveling at their loyalty in the face of Trump's erratic behavior.

It was relentless. Over the span of just four days in early 2017, the New York Times published a long profile on women who voted for Trump, a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump voter who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business. Later, even a Trump supporter who had nice things to say about Nazis received a gentle Times profile. (Actual Trump voter Times headlines: "These Guys Really Like Trump"; "Trump's Fights Are Their Fights. They Have His Back Unapologetically")

Today, those Trump voters have mobilized as Covid zombies and gone from insisting the pandemic was a hoax in 2020, to embracing every illogical anti-vaccine trope that Tucker Carlson regurgitates. And they still think the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus.

Trump voters have collectively lost their minds as the virus runs wild in red states. Even as some prominent anti-vaccine zealots kill themselves off, the close-minded hysteria intensifies as fanatics now physically assault local school board members, lodge countless death threats, and cause chaos for teachers and students. This is a kind of cult-like mania rarely seen in modern American history.

There have been unhinged right-wing political mobs before — think back to the Tea Party movement, which flourished as soon as America elected its first Black president. That however, was fueled by a willful misreading of Obama's economic policy and bailout strategy. The current day right-wing madness is more akin to the Salem witch trials, where hysterical, organized mobs conjure up imaginary demons and then set out to administer vigilante justice.

"Community groups within our conservative stronghold thought they could buck the Fox News narrative and persuade reluctant Republicans to get vaccinated," explained Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in western Michigan. "They recruited local Republican leaders to encourage their supporters to get their shots. But instead of getting more people vaccinated, these public servants got death threats."

Yet the press is still normalizing the insanity. After documenting several instances of Trump voters storming school board meetings and comparing mask mandates to sex trafficking and to Hitler's rise to power ("This is what Hitler wants. Hitler wants everybody divided. If we all stay divided, who wins? Hitler wins"), the New York Times' Michelle Cottle insisted that what the Covid Zombies are doing "is nothing new." In reality, it's unprecedented.

In The Atlantic, Elizabeth Bruenig tsk-tsked liberals for "shaming" Trump voters who are bypassing an FDA-approved vaccine in order to ingest horse paste.

Five years ago, the press made excuses for Trump's bigoted base during the campaign by claiming they were motivated by "economic anxiety." Then news outlets spent four years courting Trump voters in cozy diners and presenting them as authentic voices from the heartland. Now they're Covid zombies, and the press missed the story.

Mainstream Media Ignored Afghan War For Years

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

When the Taliban reclaimed Afghanistan last month, their victory was the culmination of two decades of failures by U.S. political, military, and diplomatic elites across four presidencies.

It also starkly revealed the failures of the U.S. press, whose relatively minimal coverage of the country in recent years had allowed those responsible for faltering U.S. policy to escape accountability. Conveniently for those leaders and pundits, the recent spike in context-free negative coverage of the Taliban takeover has now helped make President Joe Biden the scapegoat for ordering the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Afghanistan was only treated as a major news story when U.S. forces invaded in 2001, when they evacuated last month, and to some extent during the Obama-era surge in troop levels. Over the last decade, even as events transpired that led inexorably to U.S. defeat -- the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians to an ongoing civil war and terrorist strikes, the loss of the Afghan government's credibility amid a host of corruption scandals, a revived Taliban undeterred by U.S. airstrikes or the U.S.-trained Afghan military -- news coverage remained largely muted. As one Afghanistan specialist put it, "This is the least reported war since at least WWI."

To be clear, we know as much as we do about these events thanks to the essential coverage provided by American journalists and their Afghan colleagues. But their work was generally ignored by broadcast and cable news channels and rarely made the newspaper front pages. Without sustained media focus, it was relatively easy for the bipartisan foreign policy community to continue on its flawed course. Only in the frantic final days of the U.S. presence in the country -- when it was too late to change the outcome but just in time to assign blame -- did Afghanistan become a singular focus for major news outlets.

The New York Times, for example, ran 55 front-page stories about Afghanistan in August, according to a Media Matters review of the Nexis database. That figure is higher than in any single month other than October 2001 -- when the U.S. invaded the country -- and higher than in any full year since 2015. The Times averaged roughly three front-page stories about Afghanistan a month over the four years of the Trump administration; it has averaged nearly three such stories a day since August 16.

graph of ny times afghanistan coverage

The same pattern played out on TV. Afghanistan coverage on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News in August 2021 exceeded that of any full year since during the surge in 2010, according to the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer. In fact, CNN and MSNBC spent more time covering Afghanistan last month than they did from 2017 to 2020 combined.

Here's what the coverage looks like by month:

graph stanford cable news afghanistan coverage

Coverage on the broadcast nightly news shows had also been sparse, according to data that researcher Andrew Tyndall provided to Responsible Statecraft:

broadcast nightly afghanistan coverage

The Taliban's swift seizure of territory culminating with the capture of Kabul as the government evaporated and the military dissolved; the U.S. evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans and Afghan allies; and the terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans are all major stories that dominated last month's news coverage.

But when major stories happened in Afghanistan in previous years, they did not break through to nearly the same extent.

economist afghanistan chart

While U.S. combat fatalities waned in recent years, American service members continued to die in Afghanistan, and the ongoing civil war between the country's government and the Taliban remained deadly for Afghan forces and civilians alike. The discrepancy between those casualty figures may have made the war seem less pressing to Americans, but it is crucial to understand the context in which the Taliban swept across the country.

At the same time, Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government remained breathtakingly corrupt, destroying its legitimacy with the local public. Its U.S.-trained security forces engaged in rampant sexual abuse of children. Its capital was rocked by deadly terrorist attacks. Despite all this, the U.S. financial support for the regime kept flowing, at an estimated total cost of more than $2 trillion. The Trump administration dramatically expanded airstrikes, resulting in a surge of civilian casualties.

These failures have been documented both inside the government and outside it. The office of John Sopko, the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), investigated and documented a wide array of U.S. strategic errors and failed policies over the years. Most recently, Sopko concluded that "the U.S. government struggled to develop a coherent strategy, understand how long the reconstruction mission would take, ensure its projects were sustainable, staff the mission with trained professionals, account for the challenges posed by insecurity, tailor efforts to the Afghan context, and understand the impact of programs."

U.S. officials knew the Afghan effort was going poorly, even as they bragged of their successes to the American public. And it's true that some outlets tried to puncture that facade. The Washington Post reported in December 2018 on the Afghanistan Papers, documents generated as part of SIGAR's investigations which revealed "explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public." Sopko told the Post that the documents show "the American people have constantly been lied to."

That's a dramatic statement that should have triggered a rethinking of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. But as with so much of the great Afghanistan journalism of the era, the story did not significantly break through on TV news and become part of the broader media understanding of the war.

As the Taliban swept to power in the face of the U.S. withdrawal and Afghanistan became the central story for the press to an extent not seen since the 2001 invasion, another weakness came back into focus.

Americans needed crucial context about the failure of the U.S. mission given the relatively minimal reporting on Afghanistan in recent years. But as coverage of the country dramatically ramped up over the last month, outlets instead frequently prioritized the views of Washington-based journalists and pundits who presided over the quagmire in the first place.

Over the last month, news outlets all too often turned to the very people responsible for U.S. policy toward Afghanistan. These architects of failure were regular guests on TV, prioritized for quotes in print articles, and had their views splashed across the op-ed pages of major newspapers. By presenting the end of the war through the same perspectives which guided their coverage for two decades, news outlets took them off the hook for the calamities they helped bring about -- and allowed them to pass the blame to Biden.

The press is in a dangerous position when its interests align with the people it covers. And in this case, it shares with generations of U.S. politicians, diplomats, and military leaders a desire to escape nagging questions of its conduct over the longest war in U.S. history.

Methodology

Media Matters searched articles in the Nexis database for The New York Times for any variation of the term "Afghanistan" in the headline or lead paragraph of any article in the paper's A section on page 1 from January 1, 2001, through August 31, 2021.

Research contributions from Rob Savillo

While Bashing Biden, Beltway Media Ignored Assault On Abortion Rights

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Wednesday morning's Politico Playbook, the AM round-up of Beltway news, led offwith a "BREAKING NEWS" update: "The Supreme Court allowed a controversial Texas law banning abortion after six weeks to go into effect just months before it hears a more direct challenge to Roe v. Wade this fall."

"Controversial" is putting it mildly. The Texas law, passed in May, bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is well before most women even know they are pregnant. The Supreme Court on Tuesday night, without comment, refused to block the bill from becoming law, despite the fact it runs counter to Court precedents, which prohibit states from banning abortion prior to fetal viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. If the Texas law remains, it would block the vast majority of abortion patients from obtaining services in the state.

In short, the law represents a legal and political earthquake, as Republicans march closer toward overturning Roe v. Wade. Yet loyal Politico readers were excused Wednesday morning if they were caught unaware, because in the weeks leading up to its midnight trigger, Politico didn't publish a single stand-alone article about the historic GOP attempt to deny women choice. That, according to a search of Politico's online archives. (The site then published three articles on the topic yesterday.)

Politico wasn't alone. Across the national media spectrum, outlets in the last 24 hours scrambled to play catch-up with the story, which could alter nearly fifty years of choice in America. The stunning lack of coverage plays into the hands of conservatives who likely don't want a loud debate about overturning Roe v. Wade, since a clear majority of Americans support the right to choose.

"I literally watch the news for a living, and I had little to no knowledge of this abortion ban in Texas until late last night," tweeted Media Matters' Lisa Power. "It's a huge indictment of cable news that something this important can occur with practically no cable news coverage until after it's too late."

During the week prior to the bill becoming law, "Texas" and "abortion" were not mentioned in any Fox News segments over that seven-day stretch, according to TVeyes.com. For all three news channels, "Texas" and "abortion" were referenced together less than 10 times. During that same stretch, "Afghanistan" was mentioned nearly 4,000 times.

It's impossible to miss the fact that the media's virtual Texas abortion blackout occurred while the press gorged itself on Afghanistan "optics" coverage for weeks. For most of August, the Beltway press presented nonstop, 24/7 "crisis" coverage, condemning President Joe Biden for a "disaster" and "debacle" — as he oversaw the successful evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport.

The U.S. troop withdrawal was obviously a big story and required lots of attention. And within that coverage, the Taliban's inhumane treatment of women represented a pressing news story, and the media were right to focus on the fears that surround Afghanistan's future. But the GOP's appalling treatment of women in the United States also represents an urgent news story that deserves constant attention. Instead, it's being ignored.

And it's not just cable news viewers largely left in the dark.

Prior to the bill being enacted, both the Washington Post and New York Times ran a couple of perfunctory news updates about the unfolding legal challenges. Readers had to visit the papers' opinion sections though, for in-depth analysis of what the Texas bill meant and how radical and dangerous it was. Meanwhile, CNN.com during the month of August published just one news article about the history-making bill.

Most of the thin national coverage glossed over stunning aspects of the Texas law. Aside from effectively banning choice, the law's enforcement is head spinning and dangerous. From the Texas Tribune, which has been excellent on the story [emphasis added]: "The state wouldn't enforce the law. SB 8 instead provides enforcement only by private citizens who would sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion after a "heartbeat" is detected."

Texas Republicans have basically created a taxpayer-funded system for snitching on abortions and anyone associated, where an Uber driver who takes a woman to a health clinic to get a procedure could be targeted under the law.

The media's lack of coverage is especially galling considering the one area of the abortion story over the years that the press normally focuses on are the various legal and legislative tracks, as Republicans ceaselessly try to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, the topic is usually treated as a political football, and not a pressing healthcare issue.

Media analysis from 2019 sponsored by the pro-choice group NARAL found "that more than 77 percent of articles about abortion were written by political, legal, breaking news or general assignment writers—rather than health reporters," Ms. magazine reported. "Just 13.5 percent of articles analyzed quoted a physician, and only 8 percent referenced the lived experience of someone who has had an abortion."

A separate media study from 2019 confirmed that, "The personal experiences of people who get abortions are present in only 4% of the sample, and language personifying the fetus appears more often than women's abortion stories. State abortion restrictions are newsworthy, yet basic facts on the commonality and safety of abortion are virtually absent."

In their radical attempts to outlaw choice, Republicans don't want a lot of attention lavished on their actions. This week they got their wish.

New York Times Puffs DeSantis — And Blisters Biden

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Within the span of 24 hours, the New York Times provided more evidence that the paper treats the two political parties differently, especially when it comes to Democratic and Republican leaders facing crisis. In this case, it's President Joe Biden grappling with the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, versus Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state became a global epicenter for Covid this summer.

The Times showed how it's willing to normalize atrocious behavior by Republicans while holding Democrats to unfair standards.

On Sunday, the paper published a striking whitewash of DeSantis' nearly criminal actions regarding Covid this year. Eying a White House run in 2024, and hoping to tap into the GOP's anti-science base, DeSantis has played politics with public health. He's tried to bar schools from mandating masks, stood in the way of hospital vaccine mandates, and demanded cruise lines allow unvaccinated passengers to set sail. He even placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump. And now the state is paying a steep price for his cavalier governance.

"The viral load in Florida is so high right now, there are only two places on the planet where it's higher," Dr. Jonathan Reiner recently told CNN. "It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would have to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States."

Yet reading the Times' Sunday article you'd think DeSantis, who is referenced just four times in the lengthy piece, was a bit player in this man-made drama. You'd think the Sunshine State's descent into mass Covid death was some kind of unavoidable, twist of fate. "Exactly why the state has been so hard-hit remains an elusive question," the Times reported, naively throwing up its hands.

The daily also engaged in misinformation when it claimed Florida under DeSantis "emphasized vaccinations" and "made a strong push" to innoculate people. "Florida State Representative, here. This is ridiculous," tweeted Democrat Omarji Hardy, responding to the Times. "There was not anything resembling a "strong push" for vaccinations in Florida."

The Times piece didn't bother quoting a single DeSantis critic, even though just days earlier Miami Mayor Dan Gelber had announced unequivocally that DeSantis' policies "are literally killing people."

Compare that brand of kid-glove analysis to the Times page-one piece by White House correspondent Peter Baker on Saturday, who suggested the Afghanistan troop withdrawal was entirely Biden's doing, the president used questionable judgement, and Biden's responsible for U.S. loss of life.

Unlike the DeSantis piece, the Time's Biden article was overflowing with quotes from his critics, eager to second guess. In fact, the first person Baker quoted was someone who worked on President George W. Bush's Iraq War team; the war that doomed U.S. to failure in Afghanistan. One week earlier, Baker had been on the front page with another Afghanistan piece, implying Biden was incompetent and lacked empathy, two descriptions the paper won't apply to DeSantis.

Over this weekend, the Times also published a nasty opinion piece, which called the evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport "incompetent," and suggested Biden, whose late son served in the Iraq War, does not "value" men and women who serve our country.

The Times POV couldn't be clearer: DeSantis is trying his best, Biden's in over his head.

The Times' Sunday DeSantis whitewash, which was widely criticized online, represents a larger pattern by the newspaper to run interference for the Republican governor this year. Three weeks ago, the Times again tried to normalize DeSantis' dangerous behavior, suggesting that outlawing mask mandates and threatening to withhold pay from teachers during a pandemic might be the new normal [emphasis added]:

If, however, Florida comes through another virus peak with both its hospital system and economy intact, Mr. DeSantis's game of chicken with the deadly pandemic could become a model for how to coexist with a virus that is unlikely to ever fully vanish.

Amazing — if DeSantis' policies don't obliterate Florida's healthcare system and its economy, then maybe he's creating a new model. That Times article also failed to quote a single DeSantis critic, in a look at how the controversial Republican was managing the pandemic.

The newspaper actually began covering for DeSantis back in April when the Times published a front-page valentine, typing up his press office spin about how Florida was "booming" and he had somehow figured out how to carve out a Covid-free region for the Sunshine State. "In a country just coming out of the morose grip of coronavirus lockdowns, Florida feels unmistakably hot," the Times gushed.

All three DeSantis stories were written by the paper's Miami bureau chief Patricia Mazzei. Why would she seemingly go out of her way to provide cover for DeSantis as he eyes a likely presidential run? My guess is it has to do with access and maintaining cordial relations with DeSantis' communications team, which I guarantee was thrilled with the latest Times dispatch from Florida.

If and when DeSantis runs for president, journalists who are covering him now likely want to be assigned to his campaign, which would then serve as their ticket out of Florida. That's how the Beltway media game is played — scores of reporters who covered George W. Bush in Texas were rewarded with campaign assignments and then re-assigned to cover him in Washington, D.C.

Fact: It's not too late for the Times to fix its Florida coverage.

Committed To Doomsday Narrative, Media Downplay Evacuation Triumph

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Six days ago, as she prepared her airlifted exit from Kabul, CNN reporter Clarissa Ward declared that the United States' effort to evacuate thousands of Afghans was doomed to failure. "I'm sitting here for 12 hours in the airport, 8 hours on the airfield and I haven't seen a single US plane take off," she reported. "How on Earth are you going to evacuate 50,000 people in the next two weeks? It just, it can't happen."

Ward seemed to speak for most journalists who lined up for days to condemn President Joe Biden and to predict a perilous future for the Afghanistan capitol. (Talk of "mass murders" and U.S. embassy employees being taken hostage were in the media mix.) Wildly eager to portray the U.S. troop withdrawal as a "humiliating" and "disastrous" "fiasco," the media were sure the story was going to get much worse.

And they were wrong.

"In fact, it didn't take 2 weeks to evacuate 50,000. It took 10 days," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted in response to Ward. "Lots of work still to do, but it might be time for a bit of a reassessment by the media of this operation given the actual results."

Don't hold your breath waiting for journalists to acknowledge that their assessments of Kabul have been badly undercut by the stunning evacuation success.

For the first 10 days of the refugee crisis, the media obsessed over "optics" and how they were "disaster" for Biden. Suddenly though, the press shows little interest dwelling on the optics of successfully extricating nearly 100,000 people without a single U.S. casualty. Instead, the press remains married to its narrative.

That early media emphasis on optics was all consuming. "President Biden's Reassurances on Afghanistan Contradict Chaotic Images on the Ground, Capping Week of Bad Optics For His Administration," CNN announced.

According to the New York Times, the optics were so bad they threatened to doom Biden's entire presidency. "The chaotic endgame of the American withdrawal has undercut some of the most fundamental premises of President Biden's presidency," the paper claimed, in a page-one piece that implied the Democrat was incompetent, void of empathy, and "struggling to assert command over world events."

Those turned out to be hollow claims, given the U.S.'s commitment to evacuating so many people this month, and nearly 20,000 on Tuesday alone.

Over the weekend, the Times published a sprawling overview of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Written by six staffers, it was relentlessly negative in its portrayal. Headline: "This Is How the U.S.'s Afghanistan Exit Plan Unraveled."

In light of the miraculous evacuation success, when is the newspaper going to assign six reporters to produce a tick tock retelling of how the Biden team pulled off what many insisted was impossible? Or is good news no news when it comes to Biden?

Eventually addressing the historic evacuation campaign, the Times seemed to downplay the success, framing the airlift as a "public relations" tool being used by a White House "eager to shift the narrative."

Buried in the article's final paragraph was the revelation that during the collapse of Saigon in 1975, the U.S. evacuated just 7,000 people, as the South Vietnamese capitol famously fell. That's telling because at the beginning of the Kabul story 13 days ago, news outlets were obsessed with making the historical connection with Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. Turns out the U.S. has evacuated 100,000 more people from Kabul than the U.S. did in 1975. Suddenly, those Saigon comparisons don't make sense.

Downplaying the evacuation became the media norm this week. A Times headline declared "Chaos at Airport as Taliban Work on Creating State." It wasn't until the ninth paragraph that readers learned 8,000 people had been evacuated the day before.

A Washington Post piece held off until the 13th paragraph to spell out the feel-good news about 21,000 evacuations on Monday. This, after emphasizing the Biden administration had "stoked a new round of outrage," "there was looming uncertainty," "intensifying anger," and that "West Wing officials scrambled," but could do "little to quell the frustration."

On Tuesday, Politico went all in with a doomsday account of Kabul, accusing the White House of being "increasingly disconnected from reality" and not able to curb sprawling violence. Barely mentioned was the evacuation triumph.

The next day, even as exit numbers hit the 100,000 plateau, Politico insisted the Beltway media still viewed Afghanistan as a disaster: "The view in the dominant media, where highbrow foreign policy coverage is deeply influenced by the so-called Blob's view of the world, is that Biden's evacuation is an unmitigated disaster, that his every statement is at odds with the reality on the ground and that the botched pullout will have long-term political damage in 2022 and 2024."

Politico also implied, without evidence, that the administration was cooking the books on the evacuation numbers. That's how badly the press doesn't want to acknowledge the success story that has unfolded.

CNN published yet another doomsday update about the airport on Monday: "Kabul's Airport is the Epicenter of a Desperate and Deadly Scramble to Escape the Taliban." The article stressed the situation was "increasingly desperate" and "becoming increasingly perilous." The report made just passing reference to the tens of thousands of people being flown out of Kabul. And the video report that accompanied the online article, featuring CNN's Sam Kiley, did not depict an "increasingly perilous" situation. Instead, it showed orderly lines of Afghans waiting to board U.S. planes.

Two days later, Kiley confirmed to CNN viewers, "We arrived mid-afternoon on a Qatari flight and I was pleased and relieved to see quite large, well-ordered queues of people already being loaded onto aircraft from around the world."

That's just not the storyline the network wants to emphasize.

Promoting Their Biden Narrative, Beltway Press Corps Fails Again

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

One day after the New York Times in a page-one piece implied that President Joe Biden is an incompetent who lacks empathy, the State Department announced the U.S. had successfully evacuated 30,000 people from Afghanistan since the end of July, and that 8,000 people departed on Saturday alone, as they filled 60 departing flights from Kabul airport. So much for incompetence.

A thinly veiled opinion column that ran under the banner of "news analysis," the Times piece was written by White House correspondent Peter Baker. Pounding the daily's preferred downer troop withdrawal narrative, Baker went out of his way to suggest Biden, whose administration is overseeing a massive Afghanistan airlift and troop withdrawal, is similarly incompetent to Trump, who oversaw the death of 600,000 Americans to Covid-19 last year. It was a stunning bout of failed, Both Sides journalism by Baker.

Led by the New York Times' and CNN's frenzied reporting and analysis, the media have gone all in with the narrative that Biden's presidency sits on the precipice of ruin in the wake of U.S.'s long-expected troop departure from Afghanistan. (Fact: It does not.)

Deliberately falling down a deep well of optics reporting (Biden is "defiant and defensive") and launching sweeping, and often hysterical, conclusions that are not based in fact, the press gathered up its forces days ago and set off on a one-sidedfeeding frenzy excursion, where week-old "chaotic images" are still treated as breaking news by CNN. Let's be honest, if the State Departement announced it had evacuated 100,000 people from Kabul, it wouldn't change the media's predetermined coverage.

Eager to injure Biden, Beltway scribes gleefully engage in groupthink, echo GOP talking points without pause, and set their sights on the leader of the Democratic Party.

Sound familiar? Does this conjure up disturbing images of the 2016 campaign, when the same invested journalists unleashed a feeding frenzy on the country's top Democrat, feasted on "optics" analysis, badly overplayed the facts of the story, excitedly amplified Republican lawmakers, obsessed over process, and repeatedly demanded apologies from Hillary Clinton for how she handled her private email correspondence?

It's not possible to watch much of the misguided Afghanistan coverage and not see the clear similarities between that and the media's woeful But Her Emails brand of coverage that helped elect Trump.

Reminder: ABC, CBS, and NBC's network evening newscasts in 2016 aired just 32 minutes of in-depth campaign policy coverage. That same year they devoted 100 minutes to the Clinton email stories. Virtually all of the attention was negative.

Both Afghanistan and But Her Emails coverage strictly adheres to a (fantasy) storyline of the media's making, and one that features a floundering Democrat unable to put off raging political fires.

On Sunday, CNN claimed the U.S. was inflicting "moral injury" by "abandoning" allies. This, as America continue to evacuate tens of thousands of allies. That same day CNN claimed that Biden's long-expected troop withdrawal meant the U.S. was "walking away from the world stage" and "leaving Europe exposed." Fact: Most European troops left Afghanistan seven years ago. Not sure how that now means Biden's move in Afghanistan is leaving that continent "exposed."

Despite days of wildly excited media analysis about how Afghanistan could destroy Biden's entire presidency, the press still can't find any evidence the story is registering with voters. It's also impossible to recall a week of nonstop military "crisis" coverage when not a single shot was fired at U.S. troops. But for Afghanistan, the media gladly make an exception.

A Times column recently counseled how Biden could "save his presidency" in the wake of the Afghanistan controversy. Biden's ending an extremely unpopular war and is bringing the troops home without a single U.S. casualty in the process, but he has to "save his presidency"?

That makes no sense.

On Friday, NBC's indignant Richard Engel tweeted his upset over the fact that American officials were negotiating with the Tablian in order to allow for a transfer of power that's as peaceful as possible. Keep in mind, Engel has covered the Afghanistan conflict for years, but on Friday he feigned shock that after losing a 20-year war, the U.S. would be negotiating its exit with the victors of the war. The purposeful naïveté was remarkable — but essential in order to bash Biden. For the record, it was because of those U.S.-Taliban negotiations that U.S. troops have not come under fire in the last week.

Sometimes it was just easier to make stuff up in order to attack Biden. The Times' Frank Bruni accused Biden of "arrogance" because he "thought leaving Afghanistan would be simple," even though Biden never once suggested that leaving Afghanistan would be "simple."

Also on Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran a Biden gotcha "exclusive" on page one, which was widely picked up by other news outlets: "Internal State Department Cable Warned of Kabul Collapse." The smoking gun, right? Biden's team was warned that the Taliban would quickly take over Afghanistan in early August when U.S. troops were withdrawing, but the Biden team ignored the counsel.

Wrong.

The State Department cable warned of an Afghanistan government collapse after the troops withdrawal deadline of August 31. Also, halfway through the article, the Journal conceded the cable was received by top State Department officials who welcomed the on-the-ground-analysis, and who folded the information into the contingency plans. So much for that gotcha. But all day, journalists were buzzing about a confidential cable that Biden's team supposedly ignored. "A WSJ scoop that casts perhaps the harshest light yet on the administration's performance," Politico exclaimed, completely misrepresenting the Journal story.

When the press eagerly signs off on a crisis narrative involving a Democrat, almost no new facts on the ground will change their committed view. We saw that in 2016 when the press played a key role in tearing down Clinton, and we're seeing it this month with unrestrained Afghanistan coverage.