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

@EricBoehlert

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.

Why GOP-Friendly Politico Is About To Get Worse

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Is Politico jumping out the frying pan and into the fire?

The influential bible for savvy-obsessed Beltway insiders, Politico already has a strong tendency to disappoint by viewing the world through a Republican prism. Eagerly propping up Dems in Disarray storylines, Politico remains committed to portraying Republicans as being forever shrewd, and stands at the ready to amplify whatever phony outrage the GOP is pushing.

It was Politico that that famously detailed "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic" this year, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus. Today, the Sunshine State remains a global epicenter of the raging virus. The "won" coverage was part of Politico's larger, and wildly misguided, DeSantis charm offensive:

• "Covid wars launch DeSantis into GOP 'top tier'

• "Ron DeSantis Is Very Pleased With Himself"

"I consistently remind you that Politico is terrible," journalist Soledad O'Brien recently reminded her Twitter followers.

Politico's hallmark, clickbait failures are likely to become more pronounced because the publication was just sold for $1 billion to an openly conservative media giant based in Germany, Axel Springer. Named after the company's founder who has been referred to as Germany's Rupert Murdoch, all Springer employees must pledge their allegiance to the company's "Essentials":

1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.
2. We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.
3. We advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe.
4. We uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility.
5. We reject political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination.

Politico employees will not have to sign the pledge, according to the New York Times. Still, they will understand what the clear political leanings of their German owners are and that they demand fealty, which could lead American journalists to pander to their bosses. (News reporters signing any kind of worldview "pledge" is a bad idea.)

In a strange, collective oversight though, virtually none of the mainstream media coverage about the blockbuster, $1 billion deal has mentioned the proud conservative preferences of Politico's new owner. That salient fact regarding the purchase of a powerful political media outlet in Washington, D.C., has been conveniently ignored. Reuters, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all covered the Politico sale without mentioning the buyer's politics.

If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline.

The deafening media silence is curious since over the years Axel Springer's rightward lurch has not been a secret. Two years ago, The Guardian profiled the "German company founded in 1945 by the rightwing publisher of the same name." When the founder died back in 1985 the Los Angeles Times was straightforward. "Axel Springer, Conservative W. German Publisher, Dies," read the headline. The Times noted that all of Springer's media properties "served as staunch supporters of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative Christian Democratic Union."

As The Tablet observed recently, "Springer was the closest thing that the Germans had to a Rupert Murdoch. Springer's politics were decidedly conservative: capitalist (though comfortable with the German consensus on a "social market economy"); traditionalist; ferociously anti-communist, and pro-American. And much as Murdoch has come to embody everything that bien pensant liberals loathe, Springer was hated by the West German left."

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as "serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week." It added that Bild, "has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."

Over the years "Bild decried long hair on men and the marriage of its top models to foreigners. It genuflected before South African apartheid, Greek dictatorship, Bavarian sedans and American Pershing missiles," The Guardian noted. Today, "Bild'smain attack targets remain Germany's "Gutmenschen" – the do-gooders, vegetarians, Greens and 1968ers who are treated as parasites and irritants to Germany's robust economy and middle class."

Added the Columbia Journalism Review, "Some aspects of Bild's conservatism would be familiar to any weary observer of the US culture wars."

The daily recently launched its own TV station, which the Irish Times dubbed "a milder, German equivalent of Fox News."

That's who now owns Politico, which is only going to get worse.

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.

Why The Press Won’t Tell The Truth About The ‘Forever Wars’

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

A media chorus of excited critics has been relentless this week, denouncing President Joe Biden for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and warning that his entire presidency is now "stained." Tightly adhering to Republican talking points, the pundit class is sure Biden has stumbled into a historic crisis as the Taliban seizes Kabul.

The U.S. has spent trillions in Afghanistan stretching back 20 years, yet Biden, who has been in office for seven months and who campaigned on bringing the troops home, is being tagged as an architect for the Taliban's inevitable rise to power there.

A convenient, gaping hole in the coverage and commentary? The U.S. mission in Afghanistan was unalterably damaged when President George W. Bush hijacked that post-9/11 military mission and foolishly turned the Pentagon's time, attention, and resources to a doomed invasion of Iraq.

Much of the mainstream media cheered that utterly failed war. Battered by accusations of a liberal bias and determined to prove their conservative critics wrong, the press during the run-up to the war -- timid, deferential, unsure, cautious, and often intentionally unthinking -- came as close as possible to abdicating its reason for existing in the first place, which is to accurately inform citizens, particularly during times of great national interest.

Today the media's role in marketing the Iraq War has been flushed down the memory hole, even though Iraq should be central to any discussion about the U.S.'s running failure in Afghanistan. "Remarkably, the word "Bush" was not mentioned once on any of theSunday shows" this weekend as they focused nonstop on Afghanistan, noted Jon Allsop, at the Columbia Journalism Review.

You cannot discuss the rise of the Taliban in 2021 without talking about the U.S.'s doomed Iraq War in 2003. But the press today wants to try.

It's another example of how pro-Iraq War cheerleaders in the media not only have paid no price for being spectacularly wrong, but they're still allowed to dictate the parameters of our foreign policy discussion.

"For those of us who remember well how the mainstream media enthusiasm for war helped fuel not just this ill-advised war in Afghanistan twenty years ago, but the even bigger debacle in Iraq, the current media narrative is both bewildering and exhausting," writes Amanda Marcotte at Salon. "This larger media outrage over the withdrawal is a dark reminder of the pro-war bias in the press that helped create this mess in the first place, luring the American public into thinking a war in Afghanistan could ever end in any other way."

It's especially jarring to see the Washington Post and the New York Times lead the way this week with finger-pointing Afghanistan coverage, considering those two outlets played essential roles in supporting the Iraq invasion, which became a turning point for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Why a turning point? Bush drained U.S. resources by launching an unprecedented, preemptive invasion based on the lie that Saddam Hussein was sitting on a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Overnight, Afghanistan lost its focus as the U.S.'s military response to the terrorist attack on 9/11. (Under Bush, the U.S. had 10,000-20,000 troops in Afghanistan, compared to roughly 150,000 troops in Iraq during his second term. )

In truth, Bush never could have ordered the invasion of Iraq -- never could have sold the idea at home -- if it weren't for the help he received from the mainstream media, and particularly the stamp of approval he received from so-called liberal media institutions such as the Washington Post, which in February of 2003 alone editorialized in favor of war nine times.

As the Post's independent ombudsman Michael Getler later wrote, the media's performance in 2002 and 2003 likely represented their most crucial newsroom failing in nearly half a century. "How did a country on the leading edge of the information age get this so wrong and express so little skepticism and challenge?" asked Getler.

Against that backdrop of helping stage the Iraq War, it was the Post that recently admonished Biden regarding Afghanistan, claiming his "precipitous withdrawal, as well as his refusal to offer more meaningful assistance to Afghanistan's government, risks disaster."

The New York Times also raced ahead of the pack in 2002 and 2003 to cheerlead Bush's war.

"According to half a dozen sources within the Times, [executive editor Howell] Raines wanted to prove once and for all that he wasn't editing the paper in a way that betrayed his liberal beliefs," wrote Seth Mnookin in his 2004 Times expose, Hard News. Mnookin quoted Doug Frantz, the former investigative editor of the Times, who recalled that "Howell Raines was eager to have articles that supported the war-mongering out of Washington. He discouraged pieces that were at odds with the administration's position on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged links of al-Qaeda."

The New York Observer later reported, "One senior Washington bureau staffer said that as the Bush administration edged closer to invasion, the editorial climate inside the Times shifted from questioning the rationale for military action to putting the paper on a proper war footing. 'Everyone could see the war coming. The Times wanted to be out front on the biggest story,' the staffer said. 'It became the plan of attack.'"

The United States' two-decade failure in Afghanistan is inexorably tied to Bush's catastrophic Iraq invasion. Not surprisingly, news outlets that promoted the failed war aren't anxious to address it today.

Mainstream Media’s Afghan Blame Game Is Rigged For GOP

Treating the Taliban's seizure of Afghanistan's capitol over the weekend as a shocking event in the wake of U.S. troops withdrawing from the war-torn country, the press eagerly jumped into the blame game. In the process, they diligently did the GOP's bidding by omitting key context in its rush to pin the blame for a 20-year, extraordinarily complex and heartbreaking military and foreign policy failure on a single man who took office just seven months ago.

Turning over their platforms to partisan Republicans and pro-war military experts, the media seemed eager to portray President Joe Biden as one being swallowed up in "crisis," even as his call to withdraw troops has drawn overwhelming, bipartisan support at home.

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Why The Press Urged Cuomo To Resign — But Not Trump

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Rushing in to inform readers that in the wake of damning investigation into his history of sexual harassment, New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no longer suited for office, the New York Times editorial page waited barely 24 hours to reach its sweeping conclusion — "Governor Cuomo, You Should Resign." [EDITOR'S NOTE: Cuomo offered his resignation on August 10.]

"Regardless of what may happen in a court of law, the governor has only one conscionable option left: He should resign," the Times announced. "If Mr. Cuomo cares for the well-being of the state and its citizens as much as he has said he does over the years, he needs to do the right thing and step down."

The Times was unequivocal. What made the clarion call so jarring was it came from the same editorial page that refused for four years to demand Trump resign from office — to conclude, as they did regarding Cuomo, that stepping down remained Trump's "only conscionable option left," and urging him to do the "right thing."

Trump ran a criminal enterprise out of the White House, which everyone at the Times understood, and still the paper could not summon the courage to call for his resignation. Yet the Times sprinted into action in order to insist a Democrat step down? The contrast is stunning even if you agree, as so many Democrats did, that Cuomo had to leave office.

What explains the radically different standards the Times uses for announcing sitting Republican and Democratic office holders are no longer fit to serve? How does the Times, after refusing to weigh in on Trump's fitness for office for four years, announce Cuomo must resign less than a day after the results of the New York investigation was announced?

Here's the larger context: The media love to call for the resignation of Democrats. Republicans though, not so much.

In the 1990's, dozens of major newspapers loudly demanded a Democratic president step down for the good of the country. That president's sin? He lied about an extramarital affair.

"He should resign because he has resolutely failed — and continues to fail — the most fundamental test of any president: to put his nation's interests first," USA Today announced unequivocally of Bill Clinton in September 1998. "Bill Clinton should resign,'" echoed the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He should resign because his repeated, reckless deceits have dishonored his presidency beyond repair."

When Republicans tried to drive a Democratic president from office for lying about his personal life, media elites couldn't wait to tell Clinton to get lost. (None of those same papers told Trump to do the same thing.)

To be clear, the Times was not one of the dailies that demanded Clinton resign, so they managed to avoid that glaring hypocrisy. Still, we see a clear pattern in terms of media resignation calls made for Clinton and Cuomo, and crickets for Trump.

It's not like the Times didn't have endless, obvious opportunities to demand that Trump step down. Most recently, it would have been for the blood-thirsty mob he incited on January 6 after trying to use all levers of the government to overthrow a free and fair election last November. For trying to engineer a coup, plain and simple.

Or last year, when Trump refused to protect America from the Covid-19 virus invasion, and then made America's pandemic response worse every day by constantly lying to the public about science.

"Any CEO who was deemed responsible for allowing a massive tragedy to unfold would be immediately called upon to resign or be fired, even if he or she were six months from retirement," noted former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart in a CNN column last summer, shaming newspapers for remaining silent regarding Trump's much-needed departure.

Or in 2019, when Trump openly colluded with a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political opponent, while offering up the assistance of the Department of Justice. He hid transcripts of presidential calls on secret servers in hopes of covering up the collusion, and publicly threatened to expose the crucial whistleblower, insinuating that he or she should be executed. He's also urged that a Democratic member of Congress be arrested for treason.

Or the Times should have insisted Trump leave office based on his chronically deranged behavior, which made him categorically unfit to serve, such as being a habitual liar who shredded our public discourse. Trump also lined his pockets while serving. He coddled murderous dictators. Spent his day wallowing in racist attacks, lobbed vicious, personal attacks against the press, and regularly inspired white nationalist gunmen to unleash murderous attacks.

By not taking a public stand, newspaper leaders like those at the Times sent a loud, collective message that what Trump was doing to America did not represent a looming crisis; that the country could easily weather the storm and no drastic action was needed. Note that in 2019, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said he didn't really view Trump as being an unprecedented figure in American history, and likened him to Edwin Edwards, a controversial Louisiana Democratic governor from the 1970s and 1980s. (The two men have almost nothing in common.)

It's true that calls for resignation certainly would not have forced Trump from office. They would however, have helped change the national debate and more accurately reflected the crisis our country faced with a tyrannical liar at the helm. And quite simply, the calls would been the right thing to do.

The Times was right in urging Cuomo to resign. Too bad the paper of record failed to make that same obvious demand while Trump was shaming the Oval Office.

When Good News For Biden Is No News For Beltway Media

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Friday's job numbers released by the Department of Labor were shockingly good. Easily beating analysts' expectations, the U.S. economy posted 943,000 new positions in the month of July, as the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent delivering one of the strongest reports of the last decade. It was welcome news not only for President Joe Biden, since presidents are routinely graded on the strength of the job market, but for the U.S. economy as it tries to free itself from the year-and-a-half constraints of the pandemic.

Friday's red-hot accounting also went off like a firecracker on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring to new heights, setting its 44th record-high close of 2021. That benefits 60 million Americans who participate in 401K accounts and whose retirement funds balloon every time the Dow soars.

So, the fantastic jobs news and record-setting Dow climb were treated as a huge deal by the press, right? Recall that back in May, when a disappointing jobs report badly missed expectations, the press hovered over the story for days, suggesting Biden faced an economic crisis, while Republican critics condemned his handling of the economy. So to be fair and to be consistent, the media ought to have treated the July numbers just as intensely as it did the May findings, right?

Turns out lots of news outlets weren't that interested in the breakthrough job news. As has become custom, good news under Biden is often treated as no news by the press, which is far more enthusiastic pushing Biden "crisis" stories. (Remember this April headline from Politico? "How Good News Could Complicate the Biden Agenda")

Three days before the sterling jobs report, CNN's Chris Cillizza announced Biden was suffering through "the worst week of his presidency." What was the evidence of that? In part, Cillizza pointed to the fact that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had tested positive for Covid.

Wait, what? Addicted to the Dems in Disarray storyline, journalists have trouble properly focusing on good news for Democrats, like last week's economic home run.

For the blockbuster jobs report, lots of news sites greeted the development with a shrug. At 4 p.m. on Friday, roughly seven hours after the job numbers were released, the story was highlighted in the 37th headline as you scrolled down the NBC News homepage, and ran behind such pressing reports as "Scientists Unveil Extinct Ice Age Lion Cubs Pulled From Russian Permafrost," and "What to Buy in August and What Can Wait."

Truly stunning fact: Friday's "NBC Nightly News" did not mention the jobs report.

At the CBS News homepage on Friday afternoon, none of the top 50 headlines at that time addressed the jackpot economic report. CBS News did find space of this headline, though: "How to Watch Team USA Men's Basketball Compete For Gold Medal."

Another stunning fact: Friday's "CBS Evening News" did not mention the jobs report.

Online at ABC News, the jobs report was shut out in the afternoon, making room for stories about a Buffalo stopping traffic at Yellowstone National Park, the US women's volleyball Olympic victory, and a movie review of "Green Knight."

When readers clicked on the "U.S." section at ABC News' homepage, none of the top 13 headlines listed were about jobs. If they scrolled down further, at the bottom right corner they'd finally catch a glimpse of the headline for a video report, "Biden Touts Jobs Report Numbers, But Says There Is More Work Left to be Done."

To its credit, Friday's "ABC World News Tonight" did mention the jobs report, but not until the end of the broadcast.

The Washington Post slotted the blockbuster workplace numbers as its 11th most important headline on its website, behind an article about Sen. Joe Manchin's houseboat.

At CNN? By Friday afternoon the jobs report had been blacked out, as the network's homepage made way for "This Underrated Form of Exercise is So Good for You," and "Lucy Lawless Reunites With 'Xena' Costar."

Visiting the "CNN Biz" homepage, readers did find "The US Added 943,000 Jobs, The Biggest Gain Since August 2020." But that was immediately followed by a pessimistic reported headlined, "The Big Picture On Jobs is Still Grim." There, CNN stressed that employers were still struggling to find workers, thanks in part to the runaway jobs market.

The press has been slightly obsessed with that economic narrative all year. Eagerly echoing complaints from Republicans and the business community that workers had become lazy because of the federal assistance paid out during the pandemic, news outlets have hammered that point and been portraying it was bad news for Biden. Worse, the coverage often only focused on the viewpoint of business owners, not on employees.

But when there was great news for workers — and for Biden — in the form of nearly one million new jobs posted in July, the press was far less interested.

For the record, some news organizations got the story right. Late Friday afternoon, the New York Times' jobs report update was still prominently displayed as the second headline on the paper's homepage. And at the Wall Street Journal, its jobs story was the top headline all day long.

Proving once again that good journalism isn't really that hard.

The Beltway Press Must Own Its DeSantis Debacle

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

As Covid rages on in Florida, turning the Sunshine State not only into a virus epicenter of the United States but of the entire world, news organizations aren't being honest about the public health crisis under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. They're not being transparent about how months ago they embraced GOP spin and portrayed the derelict governor as a pandemic star, regurgitating conservative rhetoric about how liberal critics had been proven wrong about DeSantis' wrong-headed policy decisions, which have since propelled Florida into a grave health crisis.

The state recently broke its one-day record for new Covid cases, topping out at 21,000which is as many new cases as the entire country of France tabulates each day. Florida now has more than 12,000 (unvaccinated) people occupying hospital beds battling Covid, another grim benchmark under DeSantis. It's unthinkable that the state has been plunged into public health chaos when a safe vaccine is readily available to all Floridians over the age of 12.

At a time when states are supposed to be emerging from the year-and-a-half pandemic, Florida is shifting into reverse – it recently recorded more coronavirus cases this week than California, Texas, New York and Illinois combined. This all comes 15 months after DeSantis famously, and loudly, declared victory over the pandemic, back when the state was tallying 500 cases a day.

This debacle, and the media's refusal to be transparent about how badly it managed the DeSantis story, says as much about the state of the Beltway media as it does about this burgeoning Covid chapter.

For an industry that demands transparency and accountability from public officials, the political press is terrible at conceding its mistakes, especially when those blunders are documented by liberals. Programmed to fear charges of liberal media bias, the Beltway press often scrambles to correct supposed failures highlighted by conservatives. Hyper-sensitive to bad-faith, right-wing critiques and eager to make nice with those accusers, journalists uniformly look away when confronted by the left with irrefutable evidence of failure. And boy, did they screw up the DeSantis story.

This spring, journalists eagerly touted DeSantis' supposed virus leadership— it was Politico that announced, "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic." This, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus and after the governor foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.

"After a year of criticism by health experts, mockery from comedians and blistering critiques from political rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is standing unabashedly tall among the nation's governors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight," CNN cheered, adding that DeSantis remained "defiant and combative." CNN suggested he deserved a star turn because "Florida lands nearly in the middle of all states on a variety of coronavirus metrics" — talk about a low bar.

"Vindication for Ron DeSantis," the Wall Street Journal announced. The New York Times cheered, "In a country just coming out of the morose grip of coronavirus lockdowns, Florida feels unmistakably hot."

Not one of those news outlets, that I've seen or heard, has addressed its glowing DeSantis coverage, or explained to news consumers how and why newsrooms rushed in to paint the Republican as a Covid savior, only to watch the state now grapple with a man-made crisis.

Incredibly, DeSantis is still getting the media's benefit of doubt.

The New York Times on Tuesday published a column from Alex Azar, who served as secretary of health and human services under Trump, praising DeSantis for helping spread a pro-vaccine message to voters. That's an absurd thing to be saying in August 2021. The truth is, DeSantis went AWOL for most of this year on the topic of vaccines.

Watching the Republican Party and Fox News embrace dangerous, anti-vaccine rhetoric, DeSantis didn't want to be out of step as he eyes a possible presidential run in 2024. Instead of acting as the steward of a vulnerable local population, DeSantis abdicated his responsibilities for partisan reasons. Yet today, he receives praise in the pages of the Times.

And when the governor recently took the extraordinary irresponsible move of forbidding local school districts from mandating masks for students if needed to battle local virus surges, CNN ran a pro-GOP chyron while reporting the story: "DeSantis signs executive order giving parents power to choose whether to mask kids at school."

The news outlet most in need of some DeSantis self-reflection is Politico, which essentially doubled as the governor's communications shop last winter and spring, churning out three separate cheerleading pieces for the Florida Republican:

• "Covid wars launch DeSantis into GOP 'top tier'

• "How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic"

• "Ron DeSantis Is Very Pleased With Himself"

That last piece clocked in at 8,000 words (!!), and read like it had been ghost-written by DeSantis' spokesperson. "He was right," read the first sentence, and the glowing profile continued from there, detailing how DeSantis had foiled his critics by producing some sort of miraculous Covid oasis in the Sunshine State. "He is basking in a moment of reassessment of what and how he has done—and also of what it might mean, not just for his and his state's political future but that of the nation."

Everybody makes mistakes. And holding DeSantis up as Republican Covid hero was a doozy. Now the press needs to address that failure.

Remember When DeSantis 'Won The Pandemic'?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Florida has become a Covid-19 debacle, again.

Now accounting for one-in-every five new cases nationwide, the Sunshine State under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as a beacon of irresponsibility. Not that he seems to care.

Off visiting Texas recently to take part in more GOP photo-ops at the border, DeSantis often brushes off the pandemic bad news. "It's a seasonal virus and this is the seasonal pattern it follows in the Sun Belt states," he said this week. (He blamed "quote-unquote 'experts'" for criticizing the unvaccinated.) The governor is busy though, selling anti-vaccine merchandise, like "Don't Fauci My Florida" t-shirts.

Question: Does the Beltway press care about the state's drastic Covid U-turn? This spring, journalists lionized DeSantis' supposed virus leadership— it was Politico that announced, "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic." This, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus.

This is the same DeSantis who spent last year trying to silence scientists, covering up data, rescinding mask ordinances, playing down the virus' threat, fighting with the Florida press, and portraying himself as a maverick under attack. He even foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.

The irony is that DeSantis is now facing a Covid crisis specifically because his supporters — Republicans — aren't getting vaccinated at the same rate as others in the state. If they were, Florida, and the rest of the country, would be approaching herd immunity. Instead, the proudly unvaccinated MAGA's are driving the Florida meltdown, with some counties reporting that new cases are coming 100 percent from those who refused to get the shot. Still, DeSantis won't act. He won't lead.

The Orlando Sentinel editorial page recently read the governor the riot act over his dereliction of duty:

At the moment, it's as if DeSantis has washed his hands of the matter and moved on to elections, borders, critical race theory, mocking Fauci or whatever else will get him a headline.
And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from COVID as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida.
Please, governor, we're begging you, handle the COVID problem. Be a leader.

How bad is Florida?

• New Covid cases are up nearly 200 percent over the past two weeks.

• Florida is third in the nation in per capita increases, accounting for nearly 20 perecent of the entire nation's new infections.

•The rate of positive tests is now well above 10 percent.

• Florida now boasts the fourth-highest rate of hospitalizations and the nation's highest average for daily deaths.

•The state's vaccination rate, 57 percent, remains a mediocre embarrassment.

• The Sunshine State has the second lowest rate of vaccinated nursing home workers in the country.

All of this makes the media's torrent of DeSantis valentines earlier this year look inexcusable. Beltway scribes lined up to tell the same story over and over: Democratic critics were wrong about DeSantis, Covid, and Florida, and now he's riding high within the GOP. They eagerly held him up as a rare Republican Covid star, pushing GOP talking points about how DeSantis had steered the Sunshine State into "boom" times.

"After a year of criticism by health experts, mockery from comedians and blistering critiques from political rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is standing unabashedly tall among the nation's governors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight," CNN cheered, adding that DeSantis remained "defiant and combative."

"Vindication for Ron DeSantis," the Wall Street Journal announced.

Politico applauded the "wonky" Florida governor and his Covid-fueled rise in Republican politics: "Conservatives are relishing the contrast and holding up DeSantis as an example of effective governance." In a report about Florida's supposed Covid success story, the New York Times quoted DeSantis bragging, "If you look at South Florida right now, this place is booming." (No Democratic officials were quoted in the Times piece to offer a counter perspective.)

I understand why DeSantis' communications teams wanted to get those stories placed in the national press — he clearly has his eyes on a White House run. But why did Beltway journalists play along and type up a series of extended press releases, pretending that DeSantis alone had figured out how to defeat a global pandemic by battling health officials urging caution and common sense?

As the Delta variant runs wild, will journalists who lauded DeSantis in the spring admit they got the story wrong, and tell the truth about the Covid disaster that Florida has become?

Chuck Todd And The Myth Of Liberal Media Bias

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Surveying the media landscape and seeing a Beltway press corps that's constantly on the run from Republican attacks, Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd this week urged his colleagues to stand up to the right-wing bullies, who have spent decades demonizing journalists.

"We should have fought back better in the mainstream media. We shouldn't [have] accepted the premise that there was liberal bias. We should have defended," Todd told The Verge. "We ended up in this both-sides trope. We bought into the idea that, 'Oh my God, we're perceived as having a liberal bias.'"

He added: "Where we did get lost in this, and this sort of happened to mainstream media in particular, is that we did let Republican critics get in our heads, right? The Republicans have been running on, "There's a liberal bias in the media." This has been a 45-year campaign."

Technically, it's been a 52-year campaign, with Vice President Spiro Agnew's "nattering nabobs of negativism" attack on the press in 1969 often cited as the launching point of the choreographed crusade.

The good news is that every 12 or 24 months Todd emerges and makes these types of welcomed, clear-eyed pronouncements about the press, calling out right-wing lies, and urging his colleagues to do better in fighting against dishonest GOP attacks.

The bad news is Todd then goes back to work at NBC and rarely follows his own advice. He makes no structural changes to the programs he oversees to make sure they don't fall prey to GOP tactics. It's easy to view his pronouncements as performative, directed at those who are concerned about journalism and about the state of our democracy in the face of a Republican Party that broke its pact with common sense and instead now worships at the altar of a Mar-a-Lago retiree.

Todd refuses to follow his own lead and produce consistently clear, aggressive journalism, while not fretting about potential GOP pushback.

A quick example.

During Trump's second impeachment trial, Todd introduced a Meet The Press segment in which voters from a toss-up district in Michigan were interviewed about the House proceedings. Touted as a way to take the temperature of everyday voters outside of the "Beltway," the sit-down with six voters from Kent County, Michigan, offered a chance to hear if heartland denizens "cared" about impeachment. Except there was a problem: Every voter interviewed was a Republican, and every voter interviewed opposed impeachment. ("I don't even care. It's just noise.")

This makes no sense. If you wanted anecdotal evidence of the nation's response to impeachment, you'd interview a wide cross-section of voters. Instead, Todd only talked to Republicans even though the Michigan district he focused on is evenly split among Democrats and Republicans. What would explain this type of illogical press behavior other than a fear of upsetting conservatives — of being tagged with the Liberal Media Bias charge?

Todd lamented to The Verge that the press has fallen into a "both sides trope," where journalists strain to place blame on Republicans and Democrats even when it should not be distributed that way. Yet earlier this year, after another deadly gun rampage in America, and after the Republican Party once again categorically refused to support any possible gun safety legislation, Todd went on Meet the Press and blamed Congress — Both Sides — for not doing anything to stop the deadly plague.

In response to my media critiques, PRESS RUN readers often ask, why? Why does the press behave the way it does? Why does it engage in Both Sides nonsense in an effort to water down irresponsible GOP behavior? Why does it view so many news cycles through the prism of Republican talking points? Without question, the overriding cultural reason is the fear of being hit with the Liberal Media Bias label.

I don't mean that's what's driving journalists on an hourly, granular level, or that before filing a story or going on the air they consciously think about GOP attacks. But it does remain the dominant ethos and it's been ingrained in newsrooms for decades. (Being the target of right-wing smear campaigns is no fun and it can damage journalism careers.) Consequently, the press spends an inordinate amount of time trying to prove it's not guilty of Liberal Media Bias.

That institutional fear helps explain the inexplicable, like why so many news organizations refused to call Trump a liar for four years, even as they documented his thousands of lies. That was a deliberate decision to turn away from the truth —and from accurate language — while covering the most dangerous president in American history. Afraid that calling Trump a "liar" in straight news reports would spark cries of Liberal Media Bias, the press capitulated. In the process, Trump used his avalanche of untruths to chip away at our democratic institutions.

Eric Alterman wrote an entire, must-read book in 2003 expertly debunking the bias myth, What Liberal Media? Conservatives "know mau-mauing the other side is just a good way to get their own ideas across–or perhaps prevent the other side from getting a fair hearing for theirs," he wrote. I made a similar effort with my book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, where I focused on the media's failure during the run-up to the Iraq War: "To oppose the invasion vocally was to be outside the media mainstream and to invite scorn. Like some nervous Democratic members of Congress right before the war, mainstream media journalists seemed to scramble for political cover so as to not subject themselves to conservative catcalls."

Still, the Liberal Media Bias myth persists and remains a driving engine of the conservative movement. It's arguably more potent today because Trump made it a centerpiece of his political appeal to hate the press. It would be helpful if journalists like Chuck Todd actually took their own advice and combated the fiction head on.

Why Don't Journalists Tell Trump To 'Go Away' — Like They Did Hillary?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Sexist double standards don't come any brighter, or more well defined, than the eager, nonstop coverage Trump continues to receive months after losing his White House election, compared to how the Beltway press gleefully tried to run Hillary Clinton out of town after her 2016 loss.

For the media, Trump the man remains a captivating topic who provides endless angles of intrigue and who is treated as a looming star of American politics. This, after becoming only the ninth president in U.S. history to lose a re-election bid. Clinton the woman though, was treated as an incompetent has-been who threw away a sure-fire win, and one who needed to get off the national stage immediately. Trump has receiving very little media second guessing.

"I was really struck by how people said that to me, 'Go away, go away,'" Clinton observed in 2019, "They never said that to any man who was not elected." Trump's media treatment this year confirms her claim and that the tough coverage she received was tailor made for the first woman nominee.

Against the backdrop of President Joe Biden's "boring" administration, journalists seem eager for the chaos and clicks that Trump creates. The coverage seems to swell with each passing day, as the press marvels at Trump's lasting power. This was a breathless Business Insider headline this week, even though it would been more timely in 2017: "The Definitive Oral History of How Trump Took Over the GOP, as Told To Us By Cruz, Rubio, and 20 More Insiders."

The premise to virtually all the coverage is, of course Trump will run again. By contrast, the first woman White House nominee was treated quite differently after her defeat as journalists angrily, and irrationally, demanded she "go away":

• "Hillary Clinton Just Won't Go Away" (National Journal)

• "Why Won't Hillary Clinton Just Go Away?" (Washington Examiner)

• "It's Time for Hillary Clinton To Go Away Forever" (Toronto Star)

• "Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly into the Night?" (Vanity Fair)

• "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Hillary?" (Politico)

• "Hillary, I love you. But please go away" (Los Angeles Times)

The issue was so vexing, a New York Times column asked, "What's to be done with Hillary Clinton, the woman who won't go away?" Not long after, an annoyed Michelle Cottle at the Times published "Hillary Clinton's Master Class in Distraction," perturbed that the day's most famous Democrat was giving media interviews and speaking out against Trump.

Following the election came constant pundit hand wringing that Clinton, "doesn't place enough blame on herself," the Times stressed. Media men in particular focused on pressing Clinton to acknowledge her mistakes. Journalists today demand almost no self-reflection from Trump regarding his lopsided loss to Biden.

Clinton ran on one of the most decorated resumes in American history: First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State. But the post-election media message was simple: She was a poorly-advised, "bad" candidate who just didn't get retail politics in America.

By contrast, how many in-depth reports have you read about how and why Trump lost Georgia and Arizona, two longtime Republican bastions? "I've yet to see reporters from NY Times, WaPo, Politico etc chide Trump for not running a good campaign in Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia the way they spoke about Hillary and Wisconsin/Ohio/Etc," Oliver Willis tweeted last week.

By piling on Clinton and her campaign, the press didn't have to ask itself the hard questions about 2016 — about the obvious misogyny that fueled so much of the coverage, and whether America is a fundamentally racist country for having elected Trump.

There was also an unmistakable glee the media took in recounting Clinton's loss. In late December, 2016, the Washington Post published a mocking piece after a journalist posted a candid photograph of Clinton sitting alone in a local restaurant near her home, looking "forlorn."

Sadly, none of this is surprising. "Women candidates often inspire something more akin to paranoia," Megan Garber noted in The Atlantic. "They are often treated as interlopers, their presence regarded, in ways both subtle and astoundingly obvious, as an encroachment."

What we're seeing today is the media embrace two extreme approaches for covering recent White House campaign losers. No defeated candidate has ever been showered with much attention as Trump has. And no defeated candidate has ever been showered with as much contempt as Clinton was. Note that she actually tallied two million more votes than Trump in 2016, and Trump lost 2020 by eight million. Yet the double standard persists.

Sexism is a helluva drug.

The Deadly Spread Of The Murdoch Variant

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

There's a renewed Covid crisis in this country because powerful forces, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, want there to be one.

The United States is the only country in the world that's simultaneously trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic while battling a homegrown, deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going.

Call it the Murdoch variant. And it's proving to be deadly.

While a staff of fully-vaccinated hosts rage against an extraordinarily safe and efficient vaccine, Fox News is doing what no other outlet has done in the history of cable news, or even broadcast television has done — it's deliberately getting people killed during a public health crisis by feeding eagerly gullible red state viewers a mountain of lies.

With the debate about masks now largely eliminated from the cultural war battlefield, as a majority of eligible Americans got vaccinated and no longer have to wear them, Fox News and the extreme-right media are left with only one target — the miraculous vaccine itself.

The same right-wing crew that this winter demanded Trump receive credit for helping develop the vaccines, has done a U-turn. They're now urging loyalists not to get the vaccine, thereby prolonging the pandemic.

The anti-vaccine campaign follows the network's strident anti-mask, and anti-social distancing crusade. Last year, Fox pumped poisonous, anti-science rhetoric onto the airwaves and worked hard to divide the country, making it impossible to have a common sense national conversation in a time of crisis. This NPR headline surprised nobody from May, 2020: "Study Finds More COVID-19 Cases Among Viewers Of Fox News Host Who Downplayed Pandemic."

Today's pro-Covid movement, which dresses itself up as being anti-vaccine, highlights the deliberate lunacy that has gripped the conservative movement. It's shocking, but not surprising. It reflects the willing embrace of a dark, QAnon conspiracy view of the world where conservatives are the target of demonic Democratic scheming. And where a safe vaccine might kill you.

"This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week. There remain tens of millions of Americans who have no plans of ever getting vaccinated. For the most part, they're not "vaccine hesitant." Those "hesitant" people make up a much smaller portion of the population and for a variety of personal, historic, and religious reasons they lean against getting the shot. The defiant tens of millions though, are part of a larger movement that gladly risk infections and spreading the disease in order to own the Libs. Period.

Between June 28 and July 11, "Fox personalities and guests made a total of 216 claims undermining or downplaying vaccines in segments about coronavirus immunization," Media Matters reported.

And this, since July 11:

• "Fox's Jeanine Pirro claims door-to-door vaccine outreach is about confiscating guns."

• "Tucker Calson on COVID vaccine: "Maybe none of this is really about COVID. Maybe's it about social control."

• "Fox contributor Lara Trump says the COVID vaccine has been about controlling people "from day one"

And it's not just Fox. "Republicans are getting the same message of skepticism about the vaccines and the vaccination campaign from other parts of the right-wing media apparatus, from digital outlets to talk radio to podcast shows to Sinclair Broadcast stations to the new generation of social media influencers," Media Matters' Matt Gertz noted.

In 2020, the crass political calculations were obvious — desperate to get Trump re-elected amidst a crippled economy and a once-in-a-century health crisis, Fox News knew the only chance was to downplay the virus and pretend Democrats were overreacting, even though Trump himself nearly died from the contagious disease.

But with Trump now out of office, and even making vague suggestions that people get vaccinated, what's the political advantage of Fox News becoming a ghoulish hotbed of anti-vaccine hysteria? It's pure nihilism.

Pretending that American school children haven't been forced to get vaccinated for lots of serious ailments for the last century, Fox News has embraced a wholesale anti-vax conspiracy approach, portraying Covid jabs in the arms as signs of encroaching totalitarianism, condemning the shots in the most hysterical terms.

This was a Fox News host when Biden said there might be "door to door" outreach about the vaccine in certain communities: "Do you want someone knocking at your door that you don't know, that's a stranger?" Another host suggested the vaccine ambassadors would be shot for trespassing.

For decades, Democrats have had to deal with a billion-dollar propaganda outlet and have wrestled with how to communicate with the country when the largest cable 'news' channel lies to its viewers every day, around the clock. And for years, Beltway journalists rolled their eyes and claimed Fox News didn't pose any real danger, that the network was simply spinning on behalf of the GOP, and if Democrats wanted to govern the country they had to figure out a way to make better arguments.

Now with the pandemic, Fox News' deliberate sins are coming into clearer focus. No longer taking place against a partisan backdrop, the network is still lying nonstop. But instead of falsifying claims about Democrats or candidates or legislation, Fox News is lying without pause about a health emergency, and getting people killed in the process.

The Murdoch variant spreads.

Tucker Carlson’s NSA Tall Tale Just Gets…Dumber

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Spinning his way through an incoherent, headline-grabbing allegation that the U.S. intelligence community has been "spying" on him and releasing his emails to journalists in an effort to get his show cancelled, Tucker Carlson detailed this week how "the Biden administration" had big plans to take him down.

Conceding that he's been in contact with US-based Kremlin intermediaries while trying to secure an interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Carlson on Wednesday claimed the National Security Agency found out about that, captured his emails, and planned to leak them to journalists, "which they did." But why would anybody care that Carlson was trying to secure a Putin interview? In Carlson's telling, the government was going to try, "to paint me as a disloyal American," a Russian operative, "a stooge of the Kremlin, a traitor," for seeking the interview.

Carlson presented this as the central plank of the Biden administration's evil plan to undercut this career — to show the world that he was trying to land a Putin interview, which would be portrayed as being incredibly damaging.

Right, except in 2018 Carlson's colleague Chris Wallace landed a Putin interview and nobody thought it was scandalous. In fact, the network earned a rare Emmy nomination for the Q&A. That same year, Carlson's former colleague Megyn Kelly also scored a Putin interview, and again it was no big deal. Nobody accused her of a being a "disloyal American."

Ever since he made his entirely unsupported claim that the NSA targeted him specifically and has directly leaked his emails to reporters, Carlson has been trying to prop up the rickety tale, while soaking up the news attention. I doubt Carlson has any idea where he's taking this illogical story that still lacks any evidentiary support. He's just happy with the public notice, even if most staffers at his own network refuse to touch the soggy story.

Nothing about this caper makes sense, which is fitting since Carlson is a congenital liar. He refuses to provide any evidence that the emails were leaked, or name the so-called "journalists" who received the communications directly from the NSA. He claims to know which journalists have his emails (one of them called him to discuss it!), but he won't come forward with that information. And neither will the journalists themselves. Carlson suggests reporters across the Beltway were given his emails directly from the NSA, yet as this controversy spreads, every single one of those reporters is remaining silent for no apparent reason.

What are the odds?

Meanwhile, Carlson plays the martyrdom card to the hilt, portraying himself as a crusading journalist: "I think more ominously they are using information they gather to put leverage, to threaten opposition journalists, people who criticize the Biden administration. It's happening to me right now, and I think it's shocking. I don't think we should put up with it in a free country."

People who criticize the Biden administration are being threatened. Except none of them are. Carlson works for a network that frantically condemns every sentence President Joe Biden utters, which means the administration must be monitoring hundreds of Fox employees, right? But for some reason, the only person on the Fox News payroll being spied on is Tucker?

And if Biden had declared war on conservative journalists, why isn't Fox News championing Carlson's claims? To date, the network has been extraordinarily quiet regarding the dopey saga, choosing largely to ignore it. "Fox is right to tread carefully because its biggest star is a huge liar and has historically proven particularly dishonest in describing his own supposed persecution," noted Media Matters.

Here's the Keystone Kops chronology of events. In the spring, the Fox host turned to intermediaries to open lines of communication with the Kremlin regarding an interview request, which is a very strange thing to do. I guarantee you when Wallace and Kelly scored their Putin Q&A's they didn't do it by emailing shady figures in Putin's orbit. We can assume they did it by following traditional channels of communication via the State Department. Not surprisingly, Carlson likely ended up communicating with foreign agents close to Putin whom the NSA was monitoring. They probably knew they were being monitored, but never told Carlson his communications were being incidentally collected.

As for the dastardly leak? There's still no proof it happened, other than Carlson's untrustworthy word. He could easily provide evidence but he won't. And specifically, he won't provide proof that the emails were leaked to journalists directly by the NSA. That's key because it's possible Carlson's email pals — Putin's cronies — decided to share the contents of the emails with others inside the Beltway.

Note that when Carlson's producer this week filed a Freedom of Information request, he demanded "any call records, texts, or emails the NSA has obtained from journalist Tucker Carlson's cell phone or email," going back to January of 2019. But if Carlson only reached out to Kremlin intermediaries "this spring," and only for the purposes of trying to set up a Putin interview as the host claims, why is he looking for communications that may have been collected two years ago?

Or is there more to Carlson's Kremlin conversations than he's telling?