Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
During the 2016 election, the conservative Wall Street Journal declined to endorse Donald Trump, recognizing the Republican candidate’s manifest personal deficiencies posed a clear and present danger to American democracy. While the newspaper has grown more Trump-curious since he was sworn into office, it has largely resisted the overt #MAGA cheerleading of Rupert Murdoch’s other media organs, Fox News and the New York Post.
At least until last week. Despite multiple indictments being handed down in the Russia probe, and a separate Trump aide pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, the paper’s once tepid support for the president has reached a fever pitch bordering on dissociation.
On October 25, the Journal incurred the wrath of readers and social media alike when it ran an editorial titled “Democrats, Russian and the FBI,” arguing that special investigator Robert Mueller “lacked the critical distance to conduct a credible probe,” and that he should resign his post for the good of the country.
Four days later, in “Begging Your Pardon, Mr. President,” David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey called on Trump to issue blanket pardons to every administration official ensnared in the investigation—himself included.
The day after that, an editorial titled “The Manafort Indictment” acknowledged the malfeasance of Trump’s former campaign manager, but managed to single out the Democratic Party for its financing of the Fusion GPS dossier (opposition research compiled, incidentally, by former members of the Wall Street Journal).
These rantings and ravings have not been lost on the paper’s reporters. According to a recent report by Vanity Fair, staffers fear the opinion page has begun to undermine the publication’s credibility. The Journal has always been a purveyor of neoconservative dogma, particularly as it pertains to the economy and foreign policy, but as one veteran editor recently confided, “It does feel like this is a different level of crazy.”
“We could disprove half the stuff [the opinion writers] are saying if they just read our own reporting,” a WSJ reporter told Vanity Fair. “It’s like living in some alternate universe.”
Another staffer likened the paper’s editorials on the Mueller investigation to the dark days of Vince Foster, a former Clinton confidante whose suicide in 1993 continues to fuel conservative conspiracy theories. (The right has since added John F. Kennedy, Jr. and the DNC’s Seth Rich to Hillary’s ever-expanding hit list.)
Former Wall Street Journal editor Bill Grueskin put things more succinctly in a recent tweet:
— BGrueskin (@BGrueskin) October 30, 2017
This is not the first time the Journal has embarrassed itself or its reporters. In August, editor-in-chief Gerard Baker reprimanded the paper’s staff for its entirely accurate coverage of a Trump rally in Phoenix, where the president painted himself as the true victim of the terrorist attack in Charlottesville. “Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” he wrote in an email. “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”
That same month, Politico released a full transcript of his interview with the president in late July, exposing Baker’s chummy personal relationship with the Trump family. At one point during the conversation, he even tells Ivanka, “It was nice to see you out in Southampton a couple weeks ago.”
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the opinion page began parroting the talking points of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Over the past 18 months, conservative publications ranging from the Weekly Standard to the National Review have, at various junctures, embraced the Republican standard-bearer, even after the latter outlet ran an entire issue “Against Trump.” But as the Wall Street Journal‘s descent into authoritarianism and deranged conspiracy theory reveals, no corner of right-wing media is immune from the disease of Trumpism.
H/T Vanity Fair
Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.