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


Do Newspapers Really Need More Misleading "Trump Voter" Profiles?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Old habits die hard.

After four years of settling into a lazy practice of treating Trump voters as inherently newsworthy and deserving of constant friendly news coverage, some outlets are having trouble breaking free of the routine three months into the Biden era. Even after the insurrectionist mob, stocked with Trump loyalists, tried to overturn an election.

This week it was the Washington Post, which inexplicably published a long piece that served simply as a laundry list of quotes from Trump supporters and Republican politicians trashing President Joe Biden's new $2 trillion infrastructure proposal:

• "It's got too much junk in it."

• "It's too much."

• "The wrong prescription for America."

• "It's a coverup for wasteful spending by our government."

• "It's a Christmas list of wasteful schemes radical liberals pushed for long before the pandemic."

The Post felt it was important to fan out across the country and record the objections without offering any counter balance.

Meanwhile, how many Biden voter stories are we seeing, even as the Democrat is riding a robust approval wave? Biden just signed into law the most popular social spending bill in more than 50 years. The U.S. jobs market is roaring back to life as the vaccination rollout continues to post astonishing results, with four million shots now being administered each day. (The U.S.'s runaway vaccination rate is five times faster than the global average.)

Yet reporters still aren't sitting down with diner Democrats in blue states to document just how much they love the new president, the way they did for four years amplifying Trump voters at every possible chance. In 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.

I lost count how many Trump Voter articles the Times published, but it certainly numbered in the dozens. (Here's one from just three months ago.) Even a Trump supporter who had nice things to say about Nazis received a gentle Times profile. Committed to the idea that Trump's white backers were the most important, and most authentic, voices in American politics, the media spent four years glorifying them, marveling at their loyalty in the face of Trump's erratic behavior.

Why newsrooms ever thought that 'Trump Voters Support Trump' articles made for compelling reading, we'll never know. But they did. And now to be fair they ought to be churning out 'Biden Voters Support Biden' dispatches. Biden today is more popular with Democrats than Trump ever was with Republicans, even though the press portrayed Trump as having a magical, unbreakable bond with the GOP "base."

Instead of Biden Voter stories, we get entirely misguided Republican updates like the recent one from the Post.

Let's look at three wrong-headed assertions from the Post piece, crammed into a single paragraph. [Emphasis added]:

But any window for cooperation appears to have already closed for Republicans in Congress — and it may be closing for GOP voters, as well. Interviews with dozens of voters in three swing congressional districts across the country revealed evidence that attacks on the spending push are beginning to take hold, and congressional Republicans said they are well positioned to capitalize on voter doubts and win their way back to power in 2022.

1. Forget about the GOP "window for cooperation" now supposedly closing for the infrastructure plan. The idea it ever existed is pure fantasy. The Post makes it seem like the Republican Party today is stocked with fair-minded men and women who of course, want to give Biden a chance and approach each new initiative with an open mind and the country's best interest at heart. In reality, the Republican Party has embraced a radical strategy where complete obstruction serves as the norm, even on issues where Republican voters support Democrats.

We just saw that with the Covid relief bill, where a clear majority of Republicans nationwide backed the emergency bill — and not one elected Republican in the House or the Senate voted 'Yes.' Yet just weeks later the Post pretends Republicans are all ears when it comes to listening to Biden infrastructure proposal?

2. The Post didn't interview dozens of "voters" in three swing congressional districts to get the nation's temperature on the proposed infrastructure bill, the Post interviewed Republicans. Of the six voters quoted in the article, not one is identified as a Biden supporter. The Post also quoted four Republican Congressmen — and zero Democratic members of Congress.

3. The Post amplifies the absurd Republican spin that the one-week-old infrastructure proposal is going to cost Democrats control of the House in two years — it's absurd because nobody has any idea what the defining issues of the 2022 midterm election cycle are going to be. Pretending that an infrastructure proposal, which is popular in the polls, is going to be a loser for Democrats is just regurgitating Republican talking points.

Our political landscape has shifted under the weight of a popular Democratic president. The press needs to drop those old, useless Trump habits, fast.

When You Hear The #PsakiBomb Falling, It's Already Too Late

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

The day after President Joe Biden's first press conference last month, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy arrived at the White House press briefing feeling unloved. Having not been called on at the formal Q&A with Biden, and dwelling on his oversized sense of importance, Doocy raised his hand and asked if there as an official White House policy of not calling on him — he wanted to know if there was a coordinated campaign to ignore the Fox staffer constantly in search of a partisan fight.

Looking slightly bemused while giving her patented third-grade-teacher head tilt that conveys a willing patience, but also an unspoken and stinging, "really?", White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki patiently addressed the grievance:

PSAKI: We're here having a conversation, aren't we?

DOOCY: Yes, but.

PSAKI: And do I take questions from you every time you come to the briefing room?

DOOCY: Yes, but…

She soon concluded the back-and-forth by complimenting the reporter on his "awesome socks."

The episode confirmed that Doocy vs. Psaki remains one of the great media mismatches of our time. It also made clear that Psaki's the right woman for the right time, and she's emerged as Biden's silent slayer who carries out covert media missions with a smile. She's our real-life C.J. Cregg who has brought smarts and wit back the White House briefing room, after four years of the Trump infection, where mindless sycophants at the podium waged war on the free press.

"Press Secretary Jen Psaki is kind of badass at her job, and it's because of the extremely non-combative way she is just FINISHED WITH YOUR SHIT," Wonkette observed. "It's just like ... some kind of assassin thing where some idiot asks her an idiot question and she handles it so quickly and quietly and effectively, the poor idiot's liver is bleeding out before they even feel a thing."

In less than three months, Psaki has put her permanent stamp on the job, taking over the high-profile position at a time of national crisis. Working hard to reestablish an open, professional relationship with the Beltway press corps, Psaki has perhaps done more than anyone in the administration — including Biden himself — in terms of changing the tone in our politics, and creating a new path forward towards a transparent form of government, in the wake of the Trump's ransacking of the norms.Psaki's task is made universally easier simply because her boss is not a pathological liar or an unstable narcissist. Biden's purposely not trying to jam himself into every news cycle, or be a part of the often dubious cultural wars cooked up by conservatives.

For generations, the White House press secretary was hired to serve as a conduit between the Oval Office and the press corps, and to provide accurate information so that the Fourth Estate could inform and educate the public. Trump instead hired a series of angry name callers and performance artists paid to act as Trump's attack surrogates, not to serve the White House's or the public's interests.

Now it's Psaki's turn to fix all that. Unhurried, rarely flustered, and never instigating a fight, Psaki is not only the pitch-perfect public voice of Biden, she's also what the nation needs right now —competence and confidence. She does it all with a stealth, firm hand as she makes history leading the White House's first all-female communications team.

A consummate pro, she's completely uninterested in becoming the story. Psaki couldn't care less about going viral, and certainly doesn't plot her days trying to figure out ways to one-up assembled journalists in the briefing room.

We've seen plenty of instances where she's been asked dopey and petty questions — Why isn't Biden throwing out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' home opener? Why is the fully vaccinated president flying to Delaware to be with his family on Easter weekend? They each provided her an opening to easily mock the questioner. But she'll have none of it.

Instead, she patiently and politely walks the questioner through the answer, doing it in a way that often highlights the blatant absurdity of the premise. In the end, the question gets answered and everyone leaves the room on good terms, but Psaki has made her point.

REPORTER: Americans are saying immigrant surges are happening under President Biden's watch.

PSAKI: Who are the Americans?

REPORTER: The former president.

PSAKI: Former President Trump?


PSAKI: We don't take our advice or counsel from former President Trump.

Last week when a reporter asked if the White House would soften its "tone" about the sweeping voter suppression law recently passed in Georgia, Psaki was having none of it: "The tone for a bill that limits voting access and makes it more difficult for people to engage in voting in Georgia? … No, our tone is not changing."

Online, fans refer to those as a #PsakiBomb, the disarming way she dispenses with bad faith or plainly misleading questions. The "bomb" part of that description is slightly off, though. The good-natured Psaki remains a quintessential non-bomb thrower. She's not trying to tear anything down. But her pointed answers can leave a nasty mark when necessary. That's her super power.

And that's why she's the understated rock star of the Biden era.

Fox News Went 30 Hours Without Mentioning Gaetz Scandal

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

In an extraordinary attempt at GOP damage control, Fox News failed to make any mention, for more than an entire day, of the exploding sex trafficking scandal that's engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a close ally of the network. Opting instead for a total blackout, Fox News tried and failed to quell the raging controversy, which on Thursday night hit new heights with another round of explosive revelations.

But at Fox News, it's Gaetz who?

According to TVeyes, the 24-hour cable news monitoring service, Fox News mentioned "Matt Gaetz" just 17 times all day Wednesday and all day Thursday of last week. In fact, the network aired zero mentions of Gaetz on Thursday, and the final mention of him came Wednesday at 6:22 pm. That means for more than 30 hours, Fox News didn't reference the Congressman a single time. During that same period, CNN mentioned Gaetz 70 times, MSNBC more than 80 times.

Suffice it to say that if a prominent Democrat found him or herself at the center of a scandal as lurid as Gaetz's, who's under investigation in a federal sex trafficking probe involving a 17-year-old girl, Fox News would have hyped the story hundreds of times during the week. Fox News would have been in nonstop scandal mode demanding answers, pressing for Congressional inquiries, and denouncing the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party.

But with one of its closest allies under federal fire, the best Fox News can do is pretend nothing is happening. Instead of opting for covering the story lightly, Fox News went straight to banning it.

Obviously an attempt to erase a story as big and breaking as the Gaetz scandal doesn't happen by accident. We're witnessing a deliberate, top-down attempt by Fox News to unplug an important political story simply because the man at the center is a Republican and a vociferous Trump loyalist who loudly claimed the 2020 election had been stolen. In fact, Gaetz owes his career to Fox News and the hundreds of appearances he's made on the network in recent years.

"His combination of bottomless self-confidence and a rich kid-honed skill at being a remorseless bully turned him into an aspirational figure for the Fox News audience, a role model for the trigger-the-liberals crowd," Salon's Amanda Marcotte noted this week. Suddenly though, the network doesn't want to say his name.

The blackout isn't working as the Gaetz scandal continues to gain momentum with each new blockbuster revelation. Two jaw-dropping reports came late Friday.

From the New York Times:

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

From CNN:

Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.

This is, hands down, the most shocking scandal involving a sitting member of Congress in at least a decade. But Fox News remains on the sidelines, too nervous to cover the story.

Rupert Murdoch's Republican propaganda outlet likely knew it had a major problem on its hands with the Gaetz story when he appeared on Tucker Carlson's show last Tuesday night just as the scandal was breaking, and seemed to try to drag the host into the swamp.

"You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you'll remember her," Gaetz said. Carlson, reportedly "pissed" about the interview, quickly denied remembering any such female friend and acted confused. He later told viewers the Gaetz segment was one of the "weirdest" interviews he had ever done.

And now Fox News is trying to flush the whole sordid story down the memory hole. But it's not going to work. The Republican bottom feeder, who has been groomed for right-wing stardom by Fox News, where his obnoxious and ignorant antics were celebrated, is now facing his time in the barrel.

Press Ignores Blockbuster Study Of Trump Policies That Cost 400K Lives

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Trump's deliberate failure to protect the American public from the Covid-19 pandemic led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths — nearly half a million fatalities, according to a new study that's being ignored by the news media. It's the same press corps that's been demanding Trump receive more Covid "credit."

If Trump had shown leadership and used his bully pulpit to advocate Americans wear a mask, if he had issued a national mask mandate, had strenuously urged people to social distance themselves, hadn't demanded the U.S. economy "re-open" too soon, and if he had overseen a robust national testing program, America would be a stronger country today, the news study confirms.

The U.S. Covid death toll, which is expected to plateau at 670,000 at the pandemic's conclusion, would have topped out at less than 300,000 if we'd had coherent leadership, according to estimates from Andrew Atkeson, economics professor at University of California, Los Angeles. The new findings came from a study released last week at a conference sponsored by the Brookings Institute, the well-respected public policy think tank.

Atkeson's study did not mention Trump by name, but the ramifications surrounding the Republican's deliberate Covid sabotage remain inescapable. Fact: Trump spread more deliberate lies about Covid to a larger audience than anyone else on the planet, according to a study from Cornell University. "When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away," he once predicted.

It's not just that Trump refused to provide national leadership in a time of crisis. He actively and purposely made everything worse, starting 12 months ago when he downplayed the risks by making misleading and false proclamations. ("Anybody who wants a test will get a test.") Trump actively contradicted established science and willfully endangered Americans. He virtually silenced the government's public health experts, while accusing hospital workers of stealing pandemic medical supplies, and lying to governors about national testing shortages.

From the moment he gave the stand down order for the virus invasion, to recklessly touting a miracle cure, through the embarrassing vaccine rollout, Trump's carelessness cost lives. At his daily pandemic briefings, Trump lied nonstop, unfurling a multitude of falsehoods about the virus, the government's response, and his own previous comments on the crisis.

That directly led to hundreds of thousands of American deaths, yet we never saw a parade of "Trump Lies about Pandemic" headlines, as the press remained intimidated by the GOP madman.

The new Brookings conference study, which estimates 400,000 Americans died unnecessarily on Trump's watch, has been mostly ignored by the mainstream media since its release several days ago. Reuters has been among the very few national outlets to give the findings any coverage. (Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx made news recently when she said U.S. Covid deaths could have been "decreased" after the first 100,000 fatalities, but Birx news coverage ignored the Atkeson findings.)

Note that the disturbing new Covid study comes in the wake of the Beltway media's bizarre, public push in recent weeks to get President Joe Biden to "credit" Trump for all the hard work he did on Covid, and specifically on the vaccination rollout. An annoyed ABC News announced that, "Despite calls for national unity and bipartisanship, President Joe Biden and his top aides have declined to give the Trump administration credit on the nation's COVID-19 vaccine rollout." The Washington Post insisted Biden's vaccine success was simply built "on the Trump team's work."

Under Trump, the U.S. vaccine rollout was seen as a national embarrassment. Under Biden, it's become a model for the world, with possibly 200 million shots being administered by the time of Biden's 100th day in office.

Instead of trying to make sure Trump gets his due for something he doesn't deserve, the D.C. press ought to be documenting his criminal negligence and the stunning indifference he showed to human suffering all through 2020.

Why were news consumers recently fed two weeks of Beltway news coverage about the fact Biden's first formal press conference was slightly late coming, yet there's been almost no coverage of how Trump's deliberate neglect led to nearly half-a-million deaths? How can that chasm of coverage inequity possibly be explained or reconciled?

Is it possible the press doesn't want to accurately label Trump a stone-cold Covid killer because they're anxious for his return to the political stage? If so, it's in their interest to portray him as a mainstream political player, not somebody who consciously turned his back on the country while a year-long public health crisis spun out of control.

All through the pandemic, the political press remained reluctant to address the bigger, darker questions about Trump and why an American president seemed willing to watch the country crumble and decay on his watch — why a president would wage war on his own people the way Trump did. The press preferred to explain the staggering Trump failures as him being "distracted," or not fully engaged in the once-in-a-century crisis.

We now know the staggering toll for his neglect — 400,000 dead Americans. That's more than perished in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, combined. The press can't keep looking away from Trump's criminality.

Biden Takes A Victory Lap Around Clueless Beltway Press Corps

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Deep into a five-minute, detailed policy answer about immigration on Thursday, President Joe Biden asked reporters at the White House press conference if he was wading too deeply into the weeds. Biden wanted to know if he was giving too many details and providing too much factual information.

Talk about a seismic shift from the Trump years, when the entirety of policy discussion could be squeezed onto the back of a matchbook. Back then, reporters were also lied to nonstop at press conferences, and personally denigrated in front of the cameras. As Biden now constantly does, he flipped the script. Affable and at times folksy, Biden was his usual self, offering a common sense outlook to practical governance: "I can't guarantee we're going to solve everything, but I can guarantee we can make everything better. We can change the lives of so many people."

Overall, Biden delivered a strong, one-hour performance during his inaugural press conference, which must have felt like a colossal letdown for the Beltway media. Journalists had spent weeks mindlessly hyping the idea that Biden was hiding from the press and its legions of truth-seekers. The unending desire by the media to turn Biden's press conference into two-week, navel-gazing "news" story was something to behold.

"Stumbling or steady?" asked a Washington Post reporter, hours before the press conference. "Finally," harrumphed Politico.

Did the Beltway press really think Biden, who's been in public life nearly 50 years, who just tallied more votes than any presidential candidate in American history, and who clearly won both televised face-offs with Trump last year, can't effectively communicate his agenda and answer broad questions from reporters?

Just last week, Biden gave an extended, sit-down interview with ABC News, and he's already participated in a CNN town hall. Yet the media's myopic obsession with press conferences continued, as they worked overtime with Republicans to create a nasty Biden narrative. In the end, he emerged as the clear winner.

The strangest part of the Thursday press conference? Biden wasn't asked a single question about Covid, which has dominated every waking day of American life for the last 13 months, and has claimed more than half-a-million lives. Biden was asked twice if he planned on running for re-election in 2024, and he was peppered with questions about the border, a story Republicans have been pounding for weeks as a "crisis" for the administration. On that issue, the White House press corps was in step with the GOP and tacitly framed their multiple border questions around Republican talking points.

The media however, showed no interest in the topic of Covid, just as the GOP today shows no interest in the topic of Covid, as Biden posts success after success on that front. In fact, the Thursday presser functioned as a Biden victory lap when he announced at the opening of the Q&A that his new goal was to have 200 million Americans receive a vaccine shot within the first 100 days of his presidency. That would be an unthinkable accomplishment compared to the national embarrassment the vaccine rollout had been under Trump.

But the White House press corps on Thursday looked away.

The incessant press chatter over Biden's missing press conference in recent weeks wasn't about a larger story regarding the Biden White House trying to choke off access to reporters, operating in the dark, or waging war on the Fourth Estate. (That would be bad!) In fact, it's been the opposite, with the Biden team hosting a press briefing nearly every day where journalists are able to pose questions and receive factual, professional answers from the press secretary.

The media caterwauling was all about how Biden hadn't yet appeared in a very specific communications forum to answer questions for an hour. The issue was so pressing that the Washington Post editorial page weighed in. (The paper posted five pieces on the topic in the span of two weeks.)

Here's the reality: Trump made news popular for four years, giving outlets across the country sizeable bumps in readership and viewership as Trump remained committed to creating news all day, every day with his cascade of lies, taunts, and erratic behavior. And Beltway journalists loved it — they loved being in the middle of the tumult and being the creators of the roiling content.

That's all gone now with Biden, who has made a conscious decision to avoid the spotlight and to not needlessly interject himself into every news cycle the way narcissist Trump did. By turning the temperature way down, by refusing to manufacture news where none exists in the name of partisan warfare and general chaos, Biden is denying journalists their professional momentum.

Add to that the fact that Biden slow-walked his way to his first press conference, as compared to his predecessors who held them sooner, and that D.C. journalists hold up pressers as the pinnacle form of presidential communication, and journalists get cranky. They want White House performances. That's why they tried to turn Biden's lack of a press conference into a national news story, when it's really just inside baseball chatter. Searching for a path forward in the post-Trump world, the Beltway press is frantically trying to generate controversy where none exists.

Biden's modest, winning press conference confirmed all that.

Why Is The Washington Post Hyping The GOP's ‘Border Crisis’?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Eagerly joining forces with partisan Republicans, the Washington Post over the weekend uncorked a doomsday write-up about the surge of young migrants currently overwhelming U.S. facilities along the Southern Border. Laying all of the blame for the three-decade problem directly at the feet of the new, two-month-old Democratic administration, the Post article echoed every conceivable GOP talking point.

What the piece failed to do was include crucial context for a complicated policy puzzle, and to delve deeply into whether Trump spent four years deliberately creating a border crisis that Biden is now trying to fix.

The Post also included no context for how Biden's brand new administration has been addressing border crossings while at the same time dealing with the aftermath of a deadly insurrection, an impeachment trial, and passing the largest social spending bill in U.S. history. All in less than 60 days.

The Post is hardly alone in manically hyping the border story, at the behest of the GOP. In a highly unusual move, ABC This Week staged its entire Sunday program from the border, in order to focus on the "emerging crisis for the Biden administration."

On Saturday night, Post reporters fanned out on Twitter to tout their breathless story, which Republicans quickly seized upon. "'No end in sight: Inside the Biden administration's failure to contain the border surge," posted Josh Dawsey of the Post. Even more frantic was the tweet from colleague Nick Miroff: "How the Biden admin's poor planning, botched messaging, rush to repudiate Trump and a broken asylum system unleashed the biggest border surge in 20 years, with "no end in sight""

Fact: This is not currently the "biggest border surge in 20 years." It's not even close.

The Post article, as Julian Castro advisor Sawyer Hackett noted, was "pure hot garbage, beginning to end." He added, "Where the fuck was the outrage when Trump deported 13K children last year?"

Designed to portray the White House as poised on the brink of a defining and perhaps fatal failure, the Post article was drenched in politics instead of policy — "Republicans are reveling in the administration's border problems." The piece stressed the issue of immigration could be a loser for Democrats — it could cost them the House in 2022! — and even "overshadow" the administration's success in vaccinating tens of millions of Americans in recent weeks, and passing the wildly popular $1.9 trillion relief package. All of that could be forgotten, the Post stressed, because more people are trying to cross the U.S. border. That's an absurd premise that only adds up if you're trying tell this story from a Republican perspective.

Among the article's more egregious failures was its refusal to mention that the surge in unaccompanied minors at the border began during Trump's last year in office, as well as a surge in adults seeking asylum, the Trump team's refusal to cooperate with the Biden White House transition, and the Republicans' deliberate delay in confirming key cabinet members who most closely work on border issues.

Additionally, the article quoted former Department of Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf attacking the Biden administration. Wolf was a key member of Trump's anti-immigrant border team who worked overtime creating deliberately ineffective, chaotic, and cruel policies, which Democrats are now trying to fix. But Wolf gets to spout off in the Post about how Biden has created a crisis?

Is Biden alone responsible for the current surge? Not according to the Washington Post's own reporting just four months ago: "Attempted crossings have risen as migrants fled the aftermath of powerful hurricanes in Central America and as crime, hunger and political instability continued to ravage numerous countries in Latin America." That's now all been flushed down the memory hole, as the Post amplifies GOP attacks and targets Biden, and Biden alone for the surge.

Also disturbing was the premise from the Post piece, which echoed a Republican talking point: 'There are too many undocumented people crossing the border and in U.S. custody!' Left out of that simplistic and alarmist narrative is the fact that they're in U.S. custody because this Democratic administration has adopted a humane policy of not sending children back to often unlivable conditions. Basically, the Post penalizes Biden for trying to fix Trump's deliberate mess, by wildly hyping the change in border numbers.

"The politicians and the pundits trying to push America back to the "good old days" of 2018, of ripping families apart or condemning them to inhumane refugee camps in Mexico, are shameless," stressed the Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch, after the Postarticle was published.

In terms of border crossing apprehensions, 2021 is currently on pace to match the 2019 surge under Trump. Where was the panic-stricken media coverage about the border "crisis" then, and how the Republican administration had no policy answer? In truth, Trump touted the huge influx in 2019 because he thought it was good politics for wanting to build a mythical wall across America's southern border, which Democrats opposed.

So when a Republican was in the White House, he claimed the huge border surge was bad news for Democrats, and the press largely played along. Two years later, the press is once again playing along with Republicans, claiming a huge border surge is bad news for Democrats.

With Biden In Power — And Doing Well — The Optics Police Are Back

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Leaning hard into the task of creating conflict and controversy where none exists, the Beltway press is trying its best to rustle up gotcha stories that ding President Joe Biden. Struggling to adjust to the new media landscape that does not feature a narcissistic, pathological liar president, and one who does not purposely create outrage, journalists are swinging and missing as they work too hard to manufacture news.

Biden travels during the pandemic! Biden wears a Rolex! Biden hasn't given a press conference! Biden hasn't credited Trump for the vaccine! Biden hasn't "united" the nation! The breathless exercise is already tedious. And it's only March.

In a way this is the Beltway press returning to "normalcy" after Trump's four years of deliberate chaos. And normalcy for the D.C. media is pelting Democrats with gotcha stories about optics and how something the president has done doesn't look right, as determined by journalists. Not that the president has done anything wrong. Just that it doesn't feel right, and that now that gets treated as Important News, just months after a president who ran the White House as a criminal enterprise and tried to demolish free and fair elections in America left office.

Under that Republican president, the daily optics were routinely so horrendous as he tweeted out racist taunts, bullied adversaries, and buddied up to foreign dictators. Faced with an openly corrupt president who didn't even try to hide his misdeeds, the media's optics squad went into hiding and stopped handing out tickets altogether.

Now they're back, as the Beltway press goes searching for infractions, while journalists obliterate all sense of proportion. This double standard has now become commonplace. As a rule, there were no brazen corruption or bouts of lawbreaking when recent Democratic presidents were in office, or running for president. So the press had to lean into optics in order to create drama and allegations of wrongdoing.

Remember during the 2016 campaign when the Boston Globe and other media outlets demanded that the Clinton Foundation, an A-rated global humanitarian powerhouse, be shut down because it didn't look good for it to be operating if Hillary Clinton became president? No such high-level demands were made of the openly corrupt Trump Foundation, or when his tentacles of business dealings created an almost impossible-to-map conflict of interest.

Today, news outlets are straining to create news where none exists, like Biden not yet having a solo press conference with White House reporters. The topic was the very first question asked at a recent daily briefing, signaling how important journalists view the story. It's been the topic of endless cable TV news chatter, especially on Fox News.

In the last week, the Washington Post published no less than three pieces on the supposedly hot topic — a news story, an opinion piece, and an editorial — even though the White House has already announced Biden will have a presser by the end of the month. The administration has also renewed all kinds of access points for journalists that were cut off under Trump.

The fact that Biden arrived in office having to deal with a pandemic, an insurrection, and an impeachment trial rarely gets mentioned in the hand wringing press conference coverage. Do journalists think Biden, who's been in public life for 50 years, isn't capable of answering questions?

Recall that just days into Biden's first week in office, the New York Times dinged him for being out of touch with voters because of the expensive watch he wears, and the exercise bicycle he uses. It was a dishonest pursuit that looked especially absurd following Trump's four years of gaudy, country club excess, which the Times ridiculously labeled "populism." Trump regularly wore a $36,000 watch while president, a fact the Times politely omitted in its optics article about Biden's $7,000 Rolex, which was "a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades," the Times stressed.

That urgent wristwatch update came three days after the Times reported on Biden's exercise bike of choice, Peloton, noting the high-end workout machine "does not exactly comport with Mr. Biden's 'regular guy from Scranton' political persona."

Over this weekend, the Associated Press returned to a weird Biden gotcha storyline: He should avoid air travel during the pandemic. "The White House defends those [Delaware] visits at a time when the administration is urging the public to avoid unnecessary travel," the AP tweeted.

The wire service first pushed the Fox News-sponsored narrative last month, stressing that Biden's decision to fly on the weekend to his home in Delaware ran counter to CDC pandemic guidelines. The obvious hole in the gotcha story is that the CDC urges Americans not to travel because it wants people to avoid crowded airports and crowded planes, which is not something Biden has to encounter as the President of the United States. The idea that the Oval Office occupant cannot safely travel one year into a pandemic makes no sense.

Fact: Biden has deliberately unplugged Trump's outrage treadmill. The press needs to adjust and stop trying to concoct gotcha news.

Good Grief! New York Times Credits Trump For Vaccine Success

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

In a wildly misguided attempt at Trump rehabilitation, the New York Times this week suggested Trump deserves credit for the extraordinary success the new Biden administration is having getting Americans vaccinated. Leaning hard into the Both Sides narrative, the Times generously headlined its piece, "Biden Got the Vaccine Rollout Humming, With Trump's Help."

What the article lacked however, was any compelling evidence that Trump deserves vaccine credit, after having spent all of 2020 completely indifferent to the deadly pandemic, and spreading nonstop public health lies. Fully 60 percent of Americans over the age of 60 have received their first Covid vaccine today, compared to just eight percent under Trump. Biden should rightly take bows for that remarkable trend, after the previous administration showcased its vaccine incompetence.

Under Trump, the U.S. vaccine rollout was seen as a national embarrassment. Under Biden, it's become a model for the world, administering nearly 100 million shots. And now the Covid relief bill, which Trump and Republicans failed to pass for ten months, will pump billions into helping communities nationwide vaccinate.

The Times article represents some truly egregious revisionist history, politely positioning today's Mar-a-lago resident as a president who simply ran out of time and wasn't able to get the pandemic job done — who worked hard to create an infrastructure for his Democratic successor. That's a wildly inaccurate retelling of what happened and the almost criminal neglect Trump showed through all of last year in terms of fighting the pandemic and getting Americans vaccinated. Instead, more than half a million died.

Trump wasn't some kind of passive, disinterested bystander during the Covid crisis. He actively made it worse at every possible turn, from the moment he gave the stand down order for the virus invasion last winter ("We have it totally under control"), to lying about testing , telling Americans to ingest cleaning fluids in order to cleanse themselves of the virus, and the complete disregard he showed for mask-wearing right up until his final days in office. In truth, Trump spread more deliberate lies about Covid to a larger audience than anyone else on the planet, according to a study from Cornell University.

Trump purposely contradicted established science and willfully endangering Americans. He virtually silenced the government's public health experts and welcomed to the White House Dr. Scott Atlas, the Stanford professor and pandemic crackpot —the virus is overblown, the number of deaths is exaggerated! — whom Trump recruited after seeing on Fox News.

That's the totality of Trump's scandalous and deadly Covid behavior. And no, behind the scenes he didn't create a turnkey vaccine distribution operation that Biden plugged in and is now using to help end the pandemic in the U.S.

Incredibly, the Times wasn't alone in recent days praising Trump's vaccine work and scolding Biden for not giving him recognition. An annoyed ABC News announced that, "Despite calls for national unity and bipartisanship, President Joe Biden and his top aides have declined to give the Trump administration credit on the nation's COVID-19 vaccine rollout." Apparently, pledging "unity" means giving credit to the guy who botched vaccinations for months. The Washington Post also joined in the frantic media effort this week to normalize Trump's negligent behavior.

The ill-advised Times article archly claimed to see through the Biden White House spin. Trying to puncture the Democrat's success, the Times stressed that last week's surprise Biden announcement that American adults would be fully vaccinated by the end of May, was all about "public relations" and "conjured an image of a White House running on all cylinders and leaving its predecessor's effort in the dust." The Times suggested that was a mirage because the new administration had merely "expanded and bulked up a vaccine production effort whose key elements were in place when Mr. Biden took over for President Donald J. Trump."

Specifically, the Times claimed, "Mr. Biden benefited hugely from the waves of vaccine production that the Trump administration had set in motion. As both Pfizer and Moderna found their manufacturing footing, they were able to double and triple the outputs from their factories."

This makes no sense. Trump was responsible for private pharmaceutical companies setting out to produce a vaccine for a once-in-a-century global pandemic? He's the one who set that production in motion? Obviously, those companies did that on their own, and didn't need the President of the United States to prompt them.

Incredibly, that hollow example was the best one the Times could point to for why Trump deserves kudos for Biden's vaccination success. The whole Both Sides framing on vaccinations doesn't work, and for obvious reasons — it's not true.

The only other attempt the Times article made to bolster its claim was to quote from a former Trump aide: "They criticize what we did, but they are using our playbook every step of the way." The newspaper though, made no attempt to verify those claims. Of course, former Trump advisers are going to say they set up an amazing vaccine program and Biden is benefiting from today. But where's the proof?

Note that previously, we saw stunning revelations about how Trump's team aggressively hindered the vaccine rollout.

From STAT News:

Top Trump officials actively lobbied Congress to deny state governments any extra funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout last fall — despite frantic warnings from state officials that they didn't have the money they needed to ramp up a massive vaccination operation.

From Reuters:

The governors of several states accused the Trump administration on Friday of deception in pledging to immediately distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses from a stockpile that the U.S. health secretary has since acknowledged does not exist.

Denying states money. Boasting about a medicine stockpile that didn't exist. That's the ugly Trump record on his dismal attempt to help vaccine Americans. No amount of media whitewashing will change that.

Does Biden Owe The Media A White House Press Conference? Sort Of

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

At last Friday's White House press briefing, reporters assembled amidst a busy news day. A sweeping and historic Covid relief bill was about to be voted on in the U.S. Senate, a signature piece of legislation that Joe Biden has bet his presidency on.

Meanwhile, in the coming days, Biden was set to sign two executive orders to advance gender equity and opportunity for women, meet with the CEO of Johnson & Johnson to discuss the pandemic vaccination rollout, and deliver national remarks on the anniversary of the Covid-19 shutdown in the U.S.

The first question posed to White House press secretary Jen Psaki at Friday's briefing wasn't about any of those key topics, though. The day's first briefing query came from a reporter who asked when Biden was going to take more questions from reporters. "So we're 45 days into the Biden presidency, and he has yet to hold a presser," the journalist stressed. "Why the delay, and when can we expect the President to hold a press conference?"

Journalists and Republicans have teamed up in recent days to try to turn the topic of press conferences into a news story by demanding to know why Biden hasn't yet held a formal one. Seven weeks into his term, Biden became the first president in the past four decades who has gone this far without holding a formal Q&A session with the White House press corps.

The issue was so pressing that the Washington Post editorial page weighed in. The daily wanted to make sure the lack of press conferences didn't "become a habit," which is odd since Biden has only been in office for 50 days. The Associated Press basically claimed Biden is hiding because he's "a historically gaffe-prone politician."

Of course, unlike his predecessors, Biden arrived in office facing three unprecedented crises: an economic one, a national security one in the form of a deadly insurrection, and a public health one — and oh yeah, an impeachment trial. That might explain why he hasn't yet done a solo press conference.

The White House has pointed out that Biden regularly takes questions from the press during the week (nearly 40 times to date), and has given nine extended interviews. The White House has repeatedly said Biden will give a formal press conference this month. And he certainly should. It's important that the President of the United States address the nation in lots of different ways, and solo press conferences are certainly an important outlet for him to explain and defend his agenda.

But this media hand wringing seems a bit over the top. Is the press conference issue being raised because there's a larger sense that the Biden has curtailed media access or is trying to hide what his team is doing? No. Unlike the previous administration, which at one point unplugged daily media briefings for an entire year, the Biden White House hosts one nearly every day where journalists are able to pose questions and receive factual, professional answers from the White House press secretary.

There are no current scandals Biden is trying avoid. If anything, his press conference might end up resembling a victory lap as he rightly takes credit for the U.S.'s runaway vaccination rate, and the passage of a Covid relief bill which will help millions of families and businesses, as well as school districts across the country.

It seems more that the press wants Biden to appear in the specific forum of a solo news conference, which shines a spotlight on the White House press corps. Biden has already participated in a town hall event for CNN, answering voters' questions for more than an hour. But journalists don't think town halls really count, because they don't feature journalists. So there's a self-serving angle to the media's clamoring about a press conference, which journalists glorify as being the pinnacle of presidential communications.

"Press conferences are critical to informing the American people and holding an administration accountable to the public," said Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller, president of the White House Correspondents' Association.

The Washington Post in its editorial insisted that press conferences are where "reporters can ask follow-up questions" and "the president's thoughts on a wide range of issues can be mined." In four years of Trump press conferences, do you recall pointed, aggressive follow-up questions from reporters that helped mine Trump's deeper thoughts? I certainly don't. (I do recall that one press conference held at Trump's Bedminster, N.J., country club where local members were invited to boo reporters and cheer Trump's references to "fake news.") It's odd that the media let Trump lie his way through solo press events and now are demanding Biden hold one because that's where presidents are held accountable by the media.

Meanwhile, it's hard to miss how CNN, for instance, is pressing Biden to hold a formal Q&A in the name of access. Yet CNN pulled the plug on Biden White House daily press briefings just four weeks into the Democrat's term. This, after CNN feasted on Trump White House press briefings, airing them live and in their entirety, for four years. CNN clearly operated under different rules for Trump, and now it demands that Biden adhere to the press conference rules that the network prefers.

Biden will certainly hold a press conference soon and it will likely generate very little news, let alone blockbuster revelations. It also won't feature insults and concocted fabrications like his predecessor's did. The press should relax a bit on this issue. Biden has been quite busy to date.

How The Press Botched Coverage Of Covid Relief For A Year

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

President Joe Biden stands poised to pass one of the most substantial and popular pieces of spending legislation in half-a-century, following the Senate's passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. The American Rescue Plan will not only provide $1,400 checks for most American families and extend jobless aid, the bill provides money for vaccine distribution and financial relief for cities, schools, and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

The sprawling legislation also represents the largest increase in safety net spending in a generation. It includes huge assistance for day care, broadens eligibility for Obamacare, helps renters, and will likely cut the U.S. poverty rate by one third this year.

Reporting on the six most important "takeaways" from the bill's Senate passage this weekend, guess what USA Today ranked as the most significant detail about the American Rescue Plan? Answer: The fact that Biden wasn't able to win over Republican backing for the wildly popular bill, which has 83 percent public support.

Chalking that up as a White House failure, USA Today stressed, "Biden campaigned on bipartisanship following four divisive years under Donald Trump. Yet he was not able to win over a single Senate Republican." The paper made sure to penalize Biden: "The lack of bipartisan support shows that breaking through the gridlock isn't as easy as Biden predicted as a candidate."

Detailing the GOP's deeply radical and dangerous tendencies is not a story the press wants to dwell on. That's a key reason the media screwed up Covid relief coverage for the last twelve months, constantly presenting a false picture of legislative negotiations, told through the prism of the GOP.

USA Today didn't include one sentence about how bizarre it was that every Republican member of the House and Senate stands opposed to a bill that 70 percent of Republican voters support. Instead, the press continues to depict the GOP's obstruction as being normal and understandable. That way they can ding Biden for failing to make the bill "bipartisan." (Beltway media Golden Rule: Democrats alone are responsible for creating bipartisanship.)

Republican behavior over Covid relief last weekend at times bordered on madness, as they tried to drown the process with sure-to-fail amendments. At one point, they even tried to strip out funds specifically targeted for poor women and children. But that was definitely not the dominant media narrative in recent days. The New York Times insisted it was Democrats who faced an "awkward episode" on late Friday when details over extending unemployment payments had to be ironed out after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) raised objections. The event "threatened to defect and derail" passage, the paper reported excitedly.

Like USA Today, the Times was oblivious to the idea that Republicans faced any awkwardness for unanimously objecting to an emergency spending bill that the vast majority of Americans support, and doing everything in the party's power to slow down its passage, including the demand that the massive bill be read out loud in its entirety in the Senate, a move that wasted hours.

The Times waved off the GOP's extreme behavior as nothing more than, "a minority united in opposition." (i.e. Nothing to see here!)

Over the last twelve months, Republicans sabotaged all Covid relief negotiations, including Trump who routinely, and publicly, gave wildly contradictory statements about the need for assistance. Yet since last April, the press tagged Both Sides for failing to pass a relief package that was universally seen as crucial to the country's economic survival. ("Capitol Hill's failure to compromise" is hurting America, CNN emphasized.)

Fact: House Democrats in May passed a massive $3 trillion Covid relief package. To win over Republican support in the Senate, they then agreed to pass a smaller $2 trillion version. They were then ready to sign off on a further reduced $908 billion proposal. Republican leaders wouldn't even agree to that, yet the press consistently blamed "Congress" for not being able to meet halfway and pass much-needed assistance.

CBS News wondered, "Why hasn't Congress done more at this point?" The Congressional Covid failure represented "an institution gripped with paralysis," the Times stressed, while the Washington Post claimed the lack of legislation was due to "bickering."

Last summer, journalists claimed "Congress" was to blame for weekly $600 relief checks being cut off. Wrong — the payments were ended because Republicans forced them to end. In October, CNN's Wolf Blitzer launched into a heated argument with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, demanding to know why she wouldn't accept a White House relief proposal, even though Senate Republicans didn't support it, which meant the White House proposal would never be voted on.

Twelve months ago, the Beltway press echoed GOP talking points by loudly claiming Democrats were "blocking" the first Covid relief bill, which was eventually signed into law under Trump. The Times stressed that Democrats "risked a political backlash," by lobbying hard for additional unemployment aid, as well as more money for hospitals, healthcare workers, and local governments. (Democrats won, and improved the bill.) Today, there's very little media coverage of Republicans "blocking" the recent Covid bill, or facing "political backlash."

Republicans never supported a second Covid relief bill, yet the press spent the last year pretending otherwise — insisting that of course GOP leaders urgently wanted to aid struggling Americans, where there was little evidence that they did.

The country will be well served by the American Rescue Plan, but the slow-motion train wreck of Covid relief coverage represented a distressing failure of journalism.

Why Is CBS ’60 Minutes’ Trying To Rehabilitate The Qanon ‘Shaman’?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Arriving for the first jailhouse interview with the Trump insurrectionist known as the "QAnon Shaman," 60 Minutes+ this week provided a surprisingly gentle and understanding forum for someone who helped terrorize members of Congress on Jan. 6, when a murderous mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol.

Along with interviewing Jacob Chansley (aka the Shaman), CBS's Laurie Segall interviewed Chansley's mother who insisted her son is innocent of the six charges he faces after storming the Capitol, bare-chested and wearing a fur helmet with horns.

She claimed President Joe Biden had won the election "fraudulently," which is part of the GOP's Big Lie campaign. Her bogus election claim received no direct pushback from Segall. Why would CBS present someone as a credible person who thinks the election was stolen? 60 Minutes+ also allowed Chansley's mother to spout QAnon rhetoric about human trafficking without calling it out.

The whole CBS segment had the unfortunate feeling of a rehabilitation effort, and specifically the national press using a sympathetic lens through which to view white, right-wing political criminals. It's part of an ongoing, compassion campaign to better understand Trump sycophants who are so divorced from reality and the rule of law that they eagerly ransacked the Capitol in a dangerous effort to overturn an American election.

Are these really the type of people we need to better understand, the people who deserve a national platform? Isn't it just giving a megaphone to an insurrectionist who wants to rebrand himself on the eve of his court date, while expressing his deep admiration for Trump? (Segall: "What was it about Donald Trump that you felt so fiercely loyal to?")

"I consider myself a lover of my country. I consider myself a believer in the Constitution. I consider myself a believer in truth and our founding principles. I consider myself a believer in God," Chansley told CBS.

The interview felt like an extension of the media's four-year obsession with profiling Trump voters, and treating them as some sort of anointed tribe of captivating voters who represented the true, authentic voices of America. Not the backbone for a looming insurrection. Segall: "Do you still believe you're a patriot?"

Think of how many prisoners of color are sitting in jails across the country, unjustly convicted or facing disproportionately long prison sentences, and ask if the QAnon Shaman really deserves national attention to better tell his personal tale? Should CBS be working with the insurrectionist's defense attorney, who help set up the Q&A, because he desperately wants to clean up his client's public image in advance of a court proceeding? ("He's like a kid.")

House members this week were allowed to leave town Wednesday night after law enforcement warned about a possible militia-led attack on the Capitol because of the deranged conspiracy claim that on March 4, Trump would be inaugurated. Meaning, QAnon is not a curiosity. It's a collection of dangerous radicals who have already terrorized the country.

"The "QAnon Shaman" of the January 6th attack on the Capitol tells his story for the first time from jail," is how CBS promoted the report. But why we should care about "his story" was never explained. During the 20 minutes, viewers learned Chansley thinks he's innocent, thinks he didn't do anything wrong on Jan. 6 (i.e. it wasn't an "attack"), and that his intention that day was "to bring divinity, and to bring God back into the Senate." Viewers also learned that Chansley's family and his attorney agree he's innocent — not exactly ground-breaking stuff. What it really comes down to is 60 Minutes+ landed the interview, period, and thought that in and of itself was news.

Additional problems arose when Segall interviewed Chansley's mother, Martha Chansley, who justified her son's inclusion in the January mob by claiming the 2020 election was stolen. "I don't think it's right that [the election] was won fraudulently. I don't believe it was won fairly at all," she told CBS. Segall was not shown confronting that lie on camera. Instead, during a voice-over she said, "Both Jacob and Martha Chansley are part of a significant group of Americans who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, that Donald Trump actually won."

Segall also gave Martha Chansley free rein to spew QAnon lies: "Jacob was exposing that and helping people to being formed; money laundering, human trafficking, all that ugly stuff. How all that revolves around our election and everything is it's part of the draining of the swamp." The CBS report then cut to Martha going through old photo albums as she, "paint[ed] a picture of Chansley's childhood."

Insurrectionists who spread bogus claims about human trafficking don't deserve to be the subject of human interest profiles by 60 Minutes.

How The Press Enables The GOP’s Big Lie -- And Damages Democracy

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

So many election lies were told at the far-right CPAC conference last weekend that at one point a conservative media outlet, Right Side Broadcasting, had to interrupt its live coverage in order to air a disclaimer so that it wouldn't get sued for spreading election lies.

The conference was drowning in misinformation and whacked out conspiracies about the 2020 election, but very few mainstream outlets identified them clearly. That helps the GOP's Big Lie metastasize and spread. A CNN fact check dubbed the election lies told at CPAC to be "false claims." The network stressed Trump's 90-minute speech was filled with "falsehoods."

Reporting on the right-wing confab, CBS News used weak, vague language when noting that "unsubstantiated claims of interference" had been addressed at CPAC election panels. CBS made no mention of the fact that Trump told attendees the election had been stolen from him — that he already "beat" Democrats twice at the polls. ABC News noted Trump's "false election fraud claims."

By depicting the lies as merely disputed claims, the press continues to downplay a Republican cancer in our culture.

It's a problem that the GOP's Big Lie, as its been dubbed by many online, often isn't even called a lie by the mainstream media, which years ago put up artificial guardrails against calling Trump and his followers liars.

Lying about presidential election results is now, without question, a mainstream Republican talking point, or at the very least the claim that 'millions of Americans have concerns' about election integrity. The Big Lie is dangerous because it's clearly being used to fuel an avalanche of sweeping voter suppression initiatives in state houses around the country, as Republicans use election propaganda to pass bills to make it hard to vote. (The RNC recently set up Committee on Election Integrity, in the wake of an election that had no integrity issues.) It's an extraordinary one-two combination, the likes of which our democracy has rarely faced — it's the essence of pure propaganda.

The media help by giving a voice to the Big Lie and treating it as another Republican debating point, as if the finer points of immigration and tax reform are being discussed. It was the Big Lie that sparked a murderous insurrection on Jan. 6. It's the Big Lie that goes to the heart of American democracy. The Republican Party is waging war on free and fair elections in this country, and the Beltway press, especially the Sunday morning network talk shows, too often acts like disinterested spectatorsfacilitating a Both Sides debate — Republicans say elections are rigged, Democrats disagree!

Note this flawed headline for an in-depth New York Times investigation into the Republican commitment to pass sweeping laws that suppress the vote: "Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws." [Emphasis added.]

It's not a myth, it's a lie. Big Foot is a myth. The Loch Ness Monster is a myth. The claim that Trump's election win was stolen is a lie told by one of our two major political parties, and it's backed by a billion dollar right-wing media industry. Today, the Big Lie represents the tip of a decades-long push by the Republican Party to sever itself from factual debate. That trend was obviously accelerated with Trump's election.

Early in Trump's presidency, while moving to overturn Obamacare, Republicans tried to pass a landmark social policy initiative by categorically misstating almost every key claim about their bill. They lied about pre-existing conditions. They lied about the cost. They lied about the bill being "bipartisan."

Four years ago this winter, I wrote, "If Republicans succeed by lying about their health care plan, there's no telling what the next target of GOP fabrications will be." We now know the answer is the Big Lie.

The Sunday morning shows continue to be a media wasteland of Big Lie timidity. A revolving door of Republican politicians who have sowed the seeds of election doubts are politely ushered onto shows and either never asked about election lies, as media critic Matt Negrin has documented, or allowed to echo the lies while facing mild pushback from television hosts.

What should happen is that Republicans ought to fear appearing on national shows when discussing so-called election fraud because they know hosts will unequivocally demand they provide concrete proof to back up their claims of election fraud — the same claims that were the basis for 60 failed Trump lawsuits following the election.

Two weeks ago as a guest on ABC's This Week, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed there were, "a few states that did not follow their state laws" during the last election, and that "the rule of law" was abandoned, which is a categorically false claim. Scalise arrived at the ABC studio having previously signed on to an amicus brief supporting a radical lawsuit from the Texas attorney general that would have thrown out millions of legitimate votes across the country. That move alone should have disqualified Scalise from appearing on This Week.

By continuing to welcome Republican Big Liars on TV and treating their comments as serious and legitimate, the press is doing damage to election integrity.

Covering Tanden Drama, Press Plays Dumb On Sexism (And Racism)

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

The easiest way for the media to deal with the menacing role gender and race play in American politics, is to simply ignore the topics.

We're watching that dynamic play out this week as President Joe Biden's nominee to become the director of the OMB, Neera Tanden, faces roadblocks from key U.S. senators who are using an unprecedented standard to vote against her. Specifically, they're citing her 'mean tweets' from the past.

"I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget," announced Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

With that, Manchin likely became the first United States senator in history to vote against a cabinet-level nominee from his own party because that person was deemed to be too partisan. Because her tone was wrong. That stunning bout of illogical concern barely drew a second look from Beltway pundits, many of whom nodded their heads in agreement, as if the uncharted move made perfect sense.

What Manchin's unheard-of claim should have prompted from the press was a search for the real reason behind his objections, and why it's possible all 50 Republican senators will vote against Tanden, when no previous Biden nominee has faced that kind of uniform GOP opposition. It should have sparked a searing and widespread look at whether women, and particularly women of color, are held to a different standard when they throw some partisan elbows around. (In 2018, Manchin voted to confirm right-wing Twitter troll Richard Grenell to become U.S. Ambassador to Germany.)

But the Beltway press doesn't want to dwell on prejudice. Anxious to turn the Tanden story into a procedural one, the news media stress the Biden White House is to blame for the possibly failed nominee; for "miscalculating."

Why play dumb? Because if you ignore or downplay sexism — if you ignore the ugly whiff of misogyny and white privilege in the air — you can treat the Tanden story as a process one. You can pretend that the White House bungled the nomination, and that Biden aides are the ones to blame. That's the easy route, and that's the one so many news outlets have taken.

A recent Associated Press report on the nomination waited until the 24th paragraph to even bring up the idea that sexism might be in play. The AP suggested poor White House planning was by far a bigger factor.

This CNN report never bothered to address the idea that Tanden is being held to a higher standard. Instead, it claimed her precarious nomination simply reflects the challenges the Biden White House faces with a Senate that's split 50-50.

The Washington Post actually did a piece about the "Tanden standard" for nominees, yet the article did not include a single sentence about the role gender or race plays in U.S. politics. Additionally, the Post dinged the White House for the "rocky rollout of Tanden's nomination" and how it has sparked an administration-wide "controversy" — not about sexism, but about vote counting.

Over at Politico, a recent, hysterical report portrayed the Tanden nomination as a colossal, unmitigated political disaster for the White House. Her bid "appeared to spectacularly collapse this week," and had become a "major political stumble" for Biden. The problem with the "ham-handed" handling of the nomination is that Tanden is an ally of Hillary Clinton who's "grasping for power" inside the new White House.

Even more breathless Politico insights:

If Tanden's struggles have exposed anything, it's that Democrats have been holding onto a myth that the team who wrestled the presidential nomination away from dozens of primary competitors, then beat President DONALD TRUMP, would move into the White House and execute with a high level of precision and sophistication.

Oh my! Suddenly Tanden represents a window into the world of Democratic incompetence. ("Dems in Disarray," anybody?)

To tell that tall tale, Politico obviously ignored all traces of prejudice in the story. Because acknowledging that ugly specter ruins the preferred narrative about White House bungling.

By the way, most of the news coverage of Tanden's nomination makes passing reference to her previous "controversial" and "harsh" tweets that are supposedly so damning, but very few news organizations detail what they looked like. I suspect that's because, in truth, they weren't that bad and certainly were not out of bounds for mainstream, partisan commentary in the hot house environment of Twitter. (She once claimed vampires have "more heart" than Sen. Ted Cruz.)

It's not surprising the Beltway press is ducking the sexism story, specifically. There still hasn't been an open and honest media discussion about how the political press mistreated Hillary Clinton when she ran in 2016, and in 2008. Instead, the press remains committed to the idea that Clinton was a uniquely flawed candidate. That way journalists don't have to acknowledge their sexist sins of the past.

New York Times political editor Patrick Healy last year: "I don't think we applied double standards to Clinton." This, from the newspaper that for 16 months treated Clinton's private emails is if they were Iran Contra + Watergate.

Why does the Times remain in denial about 2016? Because admitting that the paper engaged in deeply sexist behavior would damage how the Times likes to market itself, as being a fair, open-minded, and forward-thinking enterprise.

Democratic women of color continue to be held to a different Beltway set of rules in public life. That's just not a story the press wants to tell.

No Big Lies, No Cruelty — So CNN Drops White House Briefings

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

After creating new programming rules for the Trump administration and airing virtually every minute of every White House press briefing live and in its entirety, CNN has quietly cut the cord with the new Democratic administration.

Just one month into President Joe Biden's term, the all-news cable channel last week stopped airing the daily White House press briefings. Perhaps the events weren't entertaining enough, as White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has routinely declined to insert Biden into cultural war debates, refused to castigate reporters, and won't make stuff up in the name of partisan warfare, the way her Republican predecessors did.

Instead, Psaki has answered questions as best she can about White House policy, while treating journalists with respect, instead of mocking them in search of cheap political points.

That's no longer considered must-see TV at CNN. Fox News also stopped airing the briefings, which is completely expected. MSNBC as of last week was still airing the live Q&A's from the White House.

CNN's move represents one of the most dramatic ways the press has changed the way it covers Biden, as compared to Trump. Suddenly gone is the nonstop, unfiltered coverage of White House briefings, which defined cable news during the past four years.

In January 2017, the rules changed overnight when Trump was inaugurated and suddenly the media sessions were treated as breaking news events. That, despite the fact that during the final six months of Barack Obama's presidency, just three percent of daily White House press briefings aired live, according to Media Matters.

In other words, Obama briefings were not aired. Trump's were. Now, Biden's are not. So much for liberal media bias.

There were no blockbuster stories or public crises unfolding back in early 2017. It was simply the D.C. press collectively deciding that every Trump utterance and each one of his administration's briefings had to be carried live, which meant hundreds of hours of free airtime.

That brand of obedient programming led to a breathless mindset more synonymous with a wartime culture — Everybody stop what you're doing, the White House is about to make a statement! There was no justification for the nonstop coverage, especially when the briefings were built on deceits, designed to foil honest inquiries.

Early on, reporters knew the Trump White House press briefings were a sham and a waste of time. In June 2017, CNN's Jim Acosta called the events "useless" and "pointless" because so little relevant information was being given to reporters.

And from May 31 that year, on CNN [emphasis added]:

ALISYN CAMEROTA: So then Sean Spicer goes to the podium with the press; and he can't confirm or comment on the questions that the press has about Jared Kushner and whether or not Jared Kushner tried to set up this back channel. So I mean, at what point -- why is Sean Spicer holding these press briefings? You know? What's the point of these?
DAVID GREGORY: There's really no point. And what's unfortunate for Sean Spicer is that the White House press secretary position under President Trump doesn't have credibility.

That same day, CNN's Dylan Byers detailed just how little substance then-White House spokesperson Spicer delivered at the briefings: "For two days in a row, since returning from President Trump's trip abroad, the White House press secretary has held uncharacteristically short press briefings in which he claimed not to know the answer to questions, outsourced questions to other officials or dismissed the premise of questions entirely."

That was January 2017. CNN for the next four years continued to air virtually every White House press briefing during Trump's term. It wasn't until February 2021, with a new Democrat president inside the Oval Office that CNN decided press briefings were no longer newsworthy.

Even more unforgivable was the fact that Trump's pandemic briefings were aired all last year. Every time Trump addressed the novel virus and America's unfolding pandemic, he made things worse with his steady stream of reckless contradictions, lies, and misinformation. One low point was when Trump used a television briefing to suggest Americans inject bleach into their bodies to fight off Covid-19, a deadly suggestion. This, while Trump was simultaneously lying about dismantling the White House's pandemic team, accused hospital workers of stealing much-needed surgical masks, and told governors on a conference call that he hadn't heard any complaints about there being a shortage of coronavirus tests.

Another briefing moment of shame came in April when Trump hosted one of the most bizarre televised performances by a sitting president. The planned rant featured a campaign-style commercial that aired in the briefing room and attacked the media as well as Trump's critics who had hammered him over the administration's botched handling of the pandemic. Immediately following the meltdown, CNN anchor John King admitted, "That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room."

So why did CNN keep airing future briefings?

More importantly, why did CNN decide the time to stop airing them was when a new Democratic president took office?

Biden Is Already Uniting America -- His Agenda Is Wildly Popular

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

As Democrats maneuver to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill to rescue the U.S. economy, journalists are using the fact that most Republicans oppose the emergency legislation to to raise doubts about President Joe Biden's ability to "unify" the country. Instead of marveling at the fact that the GOP stands poised to reject a bill that is highly popular with voters and would send generous payments to tens of millions of American families, the press keeps its focus on Democrats, while missing the larger story.

Echoing the Republican narrative that Biden is supposed to surrender this agenda to the party out of power days after being sworn into office (that's not how elections work), journalists are misreading the "unity" story. At a White House press briefing during Biden's first week as president, a reporter demanded to know, "When are we going to see one of those substantial outreaches that says, 'This is something the Republicans want to do, too'?"

The press insists that Biden's welcome call for unity, following a bloody insurrection inside the U.S. Capitol last month, now means that any policy push by him is divisive because Republicans oppose it.

The focus on the Beltway political process misses the more meaningful story that continues to unfold in the early weeks of the Biden presidency — he is "unifying" the country because his agenda is wildly popular. Unlike the divisive and unpopular agenda that Trump pushed, and the way he governed by caring only about his Republican base, Biden's first weeks in office have been marked by polling that shows deep public support for his domestic and foreign initiatives. That's key because being a leader who can "unify" the country is more important that being a leader who can pick up some Republican votes in Congress.

The dirty little secret the press doesn't like to dwell on, as it excitedly plays up the "unify" theme? Republicans are committed to opposing Biden, period. Just as they were committed to opposing President Barack Obama. The party's radical obstruction has become so normalized over the last decade that journalists no longer recognize it. Instead, they start legislative conversations from a mythical starting point, assuming there are lots of open-minded Republicans who are willing to support Democratic legislation if the Democratic president would properly court them. (Barack Obama criticized for not knowing how to schmooze his opponents, as if that were the reason they wouldn't budge.)

Following the Republicans' radical obstruction of a Democratic-sponsored gun law in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut in 2012, a bill that enjoyed 90 percent public support, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) admitted that most of his Republican colleagues refused to allow a vote in favor because they didn't want a Democratic president to get a 'win.' "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," said Toomey.

That GOP partisanship has only hardened today. Yet the press' focus remains fixed on how Democrats can achieve two-party cooperation in the name of unifying the country.

Biden's already doing that. He began his presidency 25 points more popular than Trump, and then began signing a flurry of executive orders designed to eradicate his predecessor's most divisive policies. While Republicans whined about the moves not "uniting" the country, polling show that many of Biden's executive orders enjoy overwhelming public support. They include banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation (83 percent support), requiring masks be worn on federal property (75 percent), overturning the ban on transgender people being able to serve in the military (71 percent), restarting the federal DACA program to protect undocumented "Dreamer" children (65 percent), rejoining the World Health Organization (62 percent), and rejoining the Paris climate according (59 percent).

The list goes on and on as Biden forges a path with policy markers that unify the country.

That includes the proposed Covid relief bill. Depicted in the press as being a deeply partisan and divisive issue, simply because the Republican Party stands opposed to the Democratic legislation, the bill enjoys sweeping support nationwide. Nearly 80 percent of Americans support sending $1,400 checks, 79 percent support federal assistance for state and local governments, and 73 percent are in favor of extending unemployment benefits. Even among Republican voters, the Democrats' $1.9 trillion relief bill gets higher approval marks than does Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Politically, the bill represents a home run for Democrats, but the Associated Press depicts it as a "dilemma" for them because Republicans oppose it. (Why isn't it a "dilemma" for the GOP?) And The Wall Street Journal stressed that Biden faced a "big decision" whether to pass the bill even if all Republicans objected. (Spoiler: He does not.)

Meanwhile, Biden continues to garner high marks for his leadership on fighting the pandemic, the most pressing issue facing the country.

Biden is already helping to unify the country, even if Republicans and the press don't want to acknowledge it.

Media Won't Face Truth About Republicans' Impeachment Cowardice

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Following a day of gut-wrenching surveillance videos depicting a violent, deadly mob teeming into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, some journalists covering Trump's impeachment trial expressed bewilderment at how Republican senators serving as jurors would be able to vote to dismiss the charges.

"How will they justify acquitting the man who sent a mob for them to stop the counting of electoral votes?" asked CNN, wondering if, "Republican senators will find their conscience changed, or vote the way Trump wants them to"?

On NBC, Chuck Todd stressed that Republicans faced a difficult choice because, "History is not going to look kindly on this acquittal vote." Specifically, he mentioned how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was an traditionalist who cares "about these institutions," and that he's "keeping an open mind" about impeachment.

This is GOP mythology. McConnell has already voted twice to stop the impeachment trial. The idea the Beltway press keeps pushing that he might suddenly turn on Trump with a dramatic flurry and vote to convict seems like pure fantasy. And McConnell supposedly cares so much about "institutions" that he rammed through a U.S. Supreme Court nominee days before the 2020 election, four years after refusing to even hold hearings on President Barack Obama's Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

McConnell is reportedly telling his GOP colleagues that the decision to convict or not should be a vote of conscience. But what if there's little or no conscience left inside the Republican caucus? How does the press adequately relate that defining feature in its impeachment news coverage?

Republicans who vote to acquit a remorseless Trump will sleep just fine at night. These are the same group of Republicans who advanced the Big Lie all winter that Trump may have won the election, after having lost by seven million votes. It's the same collection that stood by while the White House unleashed the most vicious and sustained attack on U.S. election integrity in the last century, and who said nothing while Trump demanded his political enemies be jailed, as well as pressured Georgia elections officials in January to go "find" him enough votes (11,780) to swing that state's election tally.

Why on earth do D.C. journalists think that voting "No" on impeachment would change the equation and create an ethical dilemma for Republicans? Why are reporters so committed to the myth that a GOP tipping point exists?

The wayward assumption continues to be, that of course Republicans support free and fair elections. Of course they oppose white supremacy. And of course they want to help families that have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Those claims have no basis in fact today. Yet that remains the Beltway media's starting point. Specifically, that the GOP has been torn apart by Trump and there's a burning desire to "move on" from his erratic and hateful ways. That a "reckoning" awaits.

That's the story the Beltway press likes to tell. It's just not true.

I'm with Esquire's Charles Pierce: "The other state of being for which I no longer have time is mystification. As in, "How can Republicans still essentially vote in favor of the mob that came after the Congress with blood in its eyes?""

CNN reported this week, "For most Republican senators, Wednesday's presentation did not seem to affect how they'll vote." But why? Why after seeing intangible proof that the Trump mob set out to murder members of Congress, including Republicans, why are Republican senators overwhelmingly going to sign off on acquittal? In other words, what is wrong with the Republican Party? That's the simple, central question that does not get asked. Instead, we see punditry about how Trump still maintains political control over the party, and GOP members are concerned about a backlash.

Analyzing why Republican Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott can't be swayed, Politico noted, "Rubio is on a clear path for re-election, but he would invite a GOP challenger if he doesn't stand with the former president…Scott, now running the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, remains on a track that could make him a contender in 2024."

That's how the GOP's radical, unethical nature continues to be normalized — empowering Trump's lawbreaking is presented as simply being smart politics.

When Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) did surprise the GOP this week by becoming the sixth member to vote in favor of the impeachment trial continuing, the New York Times headline read, "A Louisiana Senator's Turn Towards the Political Middle." That suggests that only players in the political middle (and on the left) are concerned by Trump's inciting of a mob. That framing absolves those on the right, despite the fact that anyone with a conscience ought to be concerned.

Remember that this is the same press corps that slow-walked Trump's months-long attempted coup, until it broke out into horrific violence on January 6, catching the media completely off guard.

Instead of accurately describing his post-election, authoritarian attempt to steal an election by invalidating millions of votes, for weeks and months we saw news updates about Trump's "tactics," his vague "moves" and "chicanery"; his legal "strategy" and "power play" while "sulking" and "brooding" inside the White House. Early on, Politico dismissed Trump's ongoing rampage as nothing more than "performance art" and "bad sportsmanship."

The Republican Party under Trump has morphed into something sinister and dangerous. The model that the press used for decades to cover the GOP is now clearly obsolete.

As Trump Sinks, Times Narrative Is Still 'Dems In Disarray’

Reprinted with permission from PressRun, Eric Boehlert's essential media newsletter (subscribe today!)

The staggering weight of America's pandemic continues to come into view with each passing day, as the death toll and the number of lost jobs catapult to new heights. Politically, the carnage represents the worst possible news for the incumbent president, who now has to run for re-election against the grim backdrop of 50,000 deaths and 26 million unemployed, as consumer confidence collapses in record time.

Yet incredibly, the political press remains committed to its longtime 'Dems In Disarray' narrative, deriding Democrats as being forever confused and outsmarted. (They're not.) Specifically, the campaign coverage for November seems oddly focused on the supposed woes hounding Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.

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