Two recent pieces in Vox and the New York Times say outright what many of us have long understood is an implicit belief among our elite media: that the media are motivated — and should be motivated — by ideology, not objectivity.
Of course, the ethics guidelines and mission statements of leading outlets have yet to acknowledge this reality, and many still read like paeans to the old gods.
“Our fundamental purpose,” the New York Times cautions its reporters, “is to protect the impartiality and neutrality [of our] reporting.” The Washington Post insists on strict “fairness” and that it “shall not be the ally of any special interest.” We are “unbiased, impartial, and balanced,” declares the Associated Press. “Non-ideological objectivity” is what the Los Angeles Times assures readers it maintains. “Professional impartiality . . . without our opinions,” is the standard declared by National Public Radio.
But if you look at what journalists actually say about each other and their racket behind closed doors, at the champagne-soaked galas where they hand each other prizes, you’re hard-pressed to find an acknowledgment that impartiality or balance are even virtues at all.
The most insider-y of these onanistic lovefests is the annual Mirror Awards, hosted by the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications and focused on reporters who cover the journalism industry itself.
One of this year’s nominees for “Best Story on the Future of Journalism,” the Pacific Standard’s Brent Cunningham, perhaps captures the new media zeitgeist most starkly in an article spotlighting reporters who hold the “belief that journalism’s highest calling [is] not some feckless notion of ‘objectivity,’ but rather to . . . expose the many ways the powerful exploit the powerless” and “f*** ’em . . . with the facts.” Indeed.
Reporter Jon Marcus was nominated for a piece in Harvard’s Nieman Reports about reporters who withhold certain facts — say, the name of a mass shooter — in a move that’s come to be called “strategic silence.” While Marcus says it’s a “fraught and complex debate” that “media organizations are struggling with,” he rehearses an Olympian leap of logic from a left-wing activist at Media Matters, who argues that reporters should apply this strategic silence to the leader of the free world, too: The idea is that they should refrain from reporting statements by President Trump that they determine are not “inherently newsworthy” or that they classify as “misinformation.” Say what you will about the man — he probably shouldn’t be covered like a gunman.
Forget about laying out the facts, or airing competing viewpoints, or writing “the first draft of history.” Americans are far too thickheaded for that. Marcus cites another sage who observes that “assuming media literacy . . . may be optimistic.” Yet another one of his sources bemoans journalists who assume that if you merely “throw facts at someone . . . that’s going to change their minds.”
The other nominees for the 2020 Mirrors (19 in all, across six categories) hardly need the encouragement to selectively slant their reportage. The list includes a host of liberal media darlings singing straight from the progressive hymnbook. In the eyes of the Newhouse School, apparently no conservative writers came up with any worthy media criticism in the last year.
Elsewhere The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, a writer whose leftism is more knee-jerk than a can-can dancer’s, was nominated for an essay called “Trump TV,” which explains that, gee whiz, Fox News tends to support the president. Move over, Bob Woodward.
The Mayer love gets meta, too. Nominated for “Best Profile” is a piece by Molly Langmuir that appeared in the glossy magazine Elle, titled “What’s Next for New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer?” Here is what the awards committee regards as an exemplar of “hold[ing] a mirror to their own industry for the public’s benefit”: “In person, Mayer, who is petite with brown shoulder-length hair she usually wears down, the tips slightly flipped up, displays a confidence that has no visible fault lines. She also has a tendency toward self-deprecation. And while her mind often seems to whir with seamless elegance, this appears to fuel in her not impatience but curiosity.”
And here’s a detail that didn’t make it in alongside the flipped tips: Mayer was recently excoriated by critics across the ideological spectrum for a baseless and uncorroborated hit piece she co-wrote, the central claims of which were later disavowed by “several dozen” sources contacted by the New York Times.
In an Orwellian flourish, Langmuir explains that to Mayer, the “furor from both the left and right” over the piece was a consequence of her and co-author Ronan Farrow’s own “attempts at carefulness.” Mayer told Langmuir that she had focused on the “‘accountability portion, trying to be fair,’” you see. Plus, Mayer’s certainty on the unsubstantiated accusation she did get into print was “informed by [another] incident Mayer learned about, the one she didn’t get into print.” Got that? The reporting rejected by every other mainstream outlet except The New Yorker was backed up by reporting rejected by every mainstream outlet — including The New Yorker.
If Mayer was at all chastened by the denunciation of her work by her peers, it’s hard to tell. In her most recent piece, “Ivanka Trump and Charles Koch Fuel a Cancel-Culture Clash at Wichita State,” she returned to one of her pet obsessions. Riffing on original reporting in the Wichita Eagle, Mayer deceptively claimed that Koch Industries “threatened to withdraw its financial support for the university” after Ivanka Trump was disinvited from giving a commencement speech. But the source article makes clear that neither Koch Industries nor Charles Koch threatened any such thing. A company spokesperson said explicitly that the company was not pulling funding and in fact stressed its commitment to “academic freedom.”
Maybe Elle ought to hold off on the puff profiles, and Mirror on the awards, until Mayer can master faithfully representing all the facts she finds reported in regional newspapers?
And that isn’t even the biggest coffee-spitter Mirror Awards nominee. That honor would go to David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, saluted for his opinion piece applauding MSNBC host and serial prevaricator Brian Williams. “At this moment when journalism and a free flow of reliable information are under continual attack from the Trump administration and its many media allies,” Zurawik proclaimed, “our democracy is made stronger by having Williams . . . at the end of each weeknight to offer perspective on the political and cultural warfare” in our “nation’s civic life.”
But that’s tame stuff compared to the outright agitprop of the nomination for a multipart series jointly published by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, “The Media Are Complacent While the World Burns,” which argued that the press doesn’t spend enough time talking about climate change. Right, and the New York Post ought to devote more ink to a plucky ballclub from the South Bronx called the Yankees. A recent report found that in 2019 the top five U.S. newspapers combined ran between 400 and 800 articles per month that mentioned climate issues. The top seven TV news outlets (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, PBS) combined covered climate issues between 200 and 400 times a month.
For the authors of that series, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope, the sheer volume of this reporting isn’t good enough if it doesn’t send readers to the ramparts. “Instead of sleepwalking us toward disaster,” they insist, “the US news media need to remember their Paul Revere responsibilities — to awaken, inform, and rouse the people to action.”
Let me suggest a different historical analog for Hertsgaard and Pope. It was a former newspaper editor, Vladimir Lenin, who once wrote, “A newspaper is what we most of all need . . . [in] the pressing task of the moment. . . . Never has the need been felt so acutely as today for reinforcing dispersed agitation . . . that can only be conducted with the aid of a periodical press. . . . A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organizer.” That’s why, to turn the sleepwalkers into the fully woke, Lenin created the infamous Department of Agitation and Propaganda, or “agitprop” for short.
For all that they say the quiet parts out loud, most journalists still want to have it both ways. They want the satisfaction of slanting coverage to suit their ideological commitments but without giving up the authoritative veneer of neutral objectivity. This duplicity helps explain why surveys from leading media groups like Pew Research show a fast-growing majority of Americans no longer trust the news.
The Mirror Awards, at least, seem to have sensed which way the winds are blowing and are sailing in that direction. They’ve moved away from their promise that the prizes should “recognize reliable reporters who criticize the media and put their own views aside [to] be transparent and objective” and toward the consensus that the problem is “the media’s reliance on objectivity and what some see as false equivalency,” as Newhouse professor Joel Kaplan puts it.
Objectivity is for suckers. A reporter’s own subjective assessment is what counts, and the public is depending on the media to tell them what to think and how to vote.14
Fine. But treat readers like grownups. Polemic masquerading as unbiased reporting demeans everyone involved, making liars out of the press and treating the public like idiots. So why not end every article with a shirttail stating plainly the reporter’s point of view? The author of this piece is a committed progressive and would like [insert desired political result] to come from the issues raised here.
The Newhouse School could even give the first New York Times or Washington Post reporter to adopt the practice an award for bravery.
The New York Times continues to shake up its editorial page after the resignation of James Bennet, the opinion editor who angered many of his former colleagues by publishing an op-ed written by a Republican.
In addition to hiring Charlotte Greensit, former managing editor at the Intercept, the Times announced the promotion of Talmon Smith to the position of staff editor. Smith, who has previously written for Salon, the New Republic, and HuffPost, has a history of what some would describe as blatant partisan bias on social media.
“All I want for Christmas is impeachment,” Smith wrote in November 2017. That was before he started working for the Times, which maintains a strict social media policy under which its journalists “must not express partisan opinions [or] promote political views.” The Times demoted a deputy editor for suggesting on Twitter that big cities (Minneapolis, Atlanta) are not representative of the broader regions (Midwest, Deep South) in which they reside.
Smith even criticized the Times in 2017 for a headline suggesting Trump had a chance to “unify” the country in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He has also dabbled in failed punditry, asserting in 2018 that former vice president Joe Biden “has an approximate zero percent chance of winning a 2020 primary.”
Smith’s promotion comes as professional newsrooms, and the ornately educated liberal youths who populate them, debate the merits of objectivity in journalism. Restrictive social media policies such as those at the Times have come under fire for limiting the ability of journalists to express their feelings about politically charged issues.
Some outlets, such as Axios, have responded by allowing their employees to take part in public protests. “We trust our colleagues to do the right thing, and stand firmly behind them should they decide to exercise their constitutional right to free speech,” Axios founder Jim VandeHei said in a statement.
That statement, and the willingness to allow journalists to take part in protests, appeared to conflict with the opinion VandeHei expressed in a 2018 column advising media outlets to “ban their reporters from doing anything on social media—especially Twitter—beyond sharing stories.” VandeHei argued that “snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.”
This view may be prevalent among media bosses, but it is increasingly under attack by younger journalists who consider their profession a form of political activism.
“What if we built a journalism where instead of judging a reporter’s ability to be fair and accurate based on their tweets, we instead judged them based on their journalism?” tweeted Pulitzer Prize-winning race journalist Wesley Lowery while promoting his widely disseminated (among elite journalists) piece on the media’s “Reckoning Over Objectivity, Led by Black Journalists.”
Smith’s tweets have become more subdued since joining the Times but continue to address controversial topics. For example, he retweeted more than one positive assessment of disgraced editor James Bennet’s humanity and suggested that liberals should stop shaming people for not social distancing following the mass protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd. Smith also tweeted in praise of Dave Chappelle, who some have criticized as anti-transgender, and said he “will happily take a memorial day [part] 2 based on white guilt,” in reference to the recent observance of Juneteenth.
The entire media industry is in the midst of a revolution of sorts. At the very least, it’s a hasty attempt on behalf of white industry leaders to express their opposition to racism and support for left-wing activism. It’s the new normal, for now.
Politicians and public-health authorities reveal their hypocrisy — and reduce the chances of the public taking them seriously again.
The universal lockdown of the country following the COVID-19 outbreak raised tensions through every segment of American society. The social and economic disruptions sparked protests all over the country, most famously in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These protests were quickly denounced by media personalities, medical experts, and politicians who claimed that the risk of spreading the virus made it foolish to gather in such ways.
Consider Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said that those protests were risking the health of the people of her state, that they “make it likelier that we are going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” and that anyone with a platform should encourage others to “do the right thing” and remain home. Or consider Deborah Birx, the lead doctor on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, who said: “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very — or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives.”
Such concerns were completely reasonable. The nation had just passed the peak of the virus surge in hot spots such as New York and Michigan, and fear of further spread was legitimate. The entire scientific logic for the lockdowns, after all, was to suppress the peak of the surge of the disease, in hopes that our health-care system would have time to learn and adapt.
However, everything changed on May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed. The outrage over this cruel killing by an officer of the state inflamed the passions of the country, sparking protests, violence, and looting, in the Twin Cities and across the United States. People surged onto the streets, primarily peacefully, to display their full displeasure, fear, anguish, and sorrow.
This time, the response from national pundits and experts to the protest movement was starkly different. Dan Diamond’s excellent article in Politico provides a full accounting of how the medical community has responded to these protests. Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, admitted that physicians were grappling with conflict between the science, and their emotions:
“It makes it clear that all along there were trade-offs between details of lockdowns and social distancing and other factors that the experts previously discounted and have now decided to reconsider and rebalance.” . . . Flier pointed out that the protesters were also engaging in behaviors, like loud singing in close proximity, which CDC has repeatedly suggested could be linked to spreading the virus. . . . “At least for me, the sudden change in views of the danger of mass gatherings has been disorienting, and I suspect it has been for many Americans.”
“Disorienting” is a very kind way to paint the shift from outright disgust and hatred that many Americans faced when they challenged the logic of the lockdowns to the ongoing celebration of the current protests. Don’t forget just how vitriolic the earlier outrage was: On social media, people were outright called murderers and terrorists; numerous governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, literally said people would die because of those protests; and media personalities behaved even worse, with Julia Ioffe of GQ calling the protesters selfish and demanding they stay home originally, and Soledad O’Brien calling Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel a “Grandma Killer.”
Suddenly, with the eruption of protests in the name of the murder of George Floyd, those concerns conveniently disappeared. Some former critics, such as Ioffe, have reversed their positions on mass gatherings and openly support them. Others remain silent, demonstrating their cowardice by barely mentioning the threat of the coronavirus to the public at large as thousands of people congregate in protest.
Consider, again, Governor Whitmer of Michigan. Whitmer has been very slow to reduce restrictions on the lockdowns. She and her attorney general, Dana Nessel, famously pursued a barber in the city of Owosso, Mich., who refused to close during the pandemic; the barber has since won his case in court. Whitmer has continued demanding strict masking and social-distancing rules for everyone in the state well into June. Yet when the BLM protests arrived in metropolitan Detroit on June 4, Whitmer was there to greet them. She wore a mask but rejected all social-distancing regulations, marching side-by-side with protesters. Whitmer was more than happy to violate her own executive orders.
Such hypocrisy is not unusual from journalists, or even politicians. However, a much more serious ethical and professional issue arises when doctors and scientists show such blatant hypocritical bias. As scientists, we have sworn to the public that our recommendations would depend on the science and the data, and reject the whims of emotion and personal opinion.
Sadly, this has not been the case. Former head of the Centers for Disease Control Tom Frieden tweeted that he was concerned about losing the community trust by having physicians voice the risks of the virus to protesters. However, back on May 3, he stated, without any fear, “We’re not just staying home in the magical belief that the virus is going to go away. It won’t. Staying home gives us the opportunity to strengthen our health-care and public-health systems.”
Did the virus change in the last month in ways that staying home now doesn’t weaken our system? Frieden is now making the same arguments that lockdown opponents were making a month earlier! In a tweet on June 2, Frieden stated: “The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health.”
The facts and reality are that the science and data have not substantially changed. We don’t have a good quantification of the risk of viral spread outdoors: the common consensus is the risk is low, but that consensus existed a month earlier as well, and no conclusive, landmark studies have emerged. Nothing about our fundamental understanding of the disease has changed, but Frieden has done a 180-degree reversal of his position regardless.
Many physicians and scientists have likewise let their partisan leanings overshadow the science. An epidemiologist on Twitter stated: “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” What absurd scientific standards were used to make that remarkable statement?
The short answer is: none. Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed a total of 7,666 people, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. That data shows that relative to their share of the general population, blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be killed by police; since 2015, 1,252 African Americans have been shot and killed by police, using the Washington Post’s database. These are obviously horrific numbers, and we should stipulate that no citizen of the United States should be complacent about these obvious abuses.
But science shouldn’t deal with emotion or fundamentals. It deals with facts and data. And the facts are these: As of May 26, 2020 (the last date for which race-based data is fully available), the APMResearch Lab documented a total of approximately 88,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. Of those, 21,878 were African-American. African Americans were shown to die of the coronavirus 2.4 times as often as whites, and 2.2 times as often as Hispanics and Asians. To put that into better perspective, 1 in 1850 black Americans in the entire country perished, versus 1 in 4400 white Americans. African Americans represent 13 percent of all Americans, but have suffered 25 percent of all viral deaths.
These are incredible, and tragic, numbers. And medical science can give us some clues as to the reason for the disproportionate effect. African Americans are less likely to have family physicians, are more likely to have co-morbidities that lead to high risk of complications with coronavirus, and are more likely to use mass-transit systems. Additionally, more African Americans live in multi-generational homes, with possibility of infection from their children and grandchildren. All of these factors likely made them far more susceptible to the disease than the average American. But ultimately what this shows is that the coronavirus is somewhere in the range of 200 to 300 times more deadly than all of the police in the entire country — as a conservative estimate.
To be sure, reducing this complex issue to basic numbers fails to capture the complexities of dealing with racism in our society. These are emotional issues that cannot be distilled scientifically. It is perfectly reasonable for the public to deal with these issues by contemplating the larger context of society, racism, and historical connotations.
But scientists and physicians are supposed to be immune to political or emotional whims. Too many are showing themselves not to be. And the dangers extend beyond hypocrisy. Distrust between the public and the medical community makes it harder for the public to make sacrifices in the name of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians fundamentally rely on trust; the doctor–patient relationship is one of the fundamental philosophical cornerstones in medicine. So, too, do public-health officials, whose recommendations can be disruptive to ordinary people’s lives.
It took a Herculean effort to institute the lockdowns. But many experts have totally refused to speak up about the risk of these protests to cause future surges of the disease, while they were violently opposing similar, smaller protests a few weeks ago. The narrative is clear: They are willing to stand up for the science, as long as it is politically and emotionally convenient.
Not all experts have stayed silent about the risks that persist to this day. Anthony Fauci has remained consistent in warning about the likely consequences of mass gatherings. But, from the beginning, plenty of people in the public-health and medical communities have expected ordinary Americans to listen to their recommendations while failing to admit their own scientific and knowledge limitations. In a piece in April, I stated that we would need sympathy and empathy nationwide to get through this crisis. We should now add humility to the list as well.
A former New York Times reporter opposes an investigation of the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden, calling for a “coronation” of the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“I want a coronation of Joe Biden,” Martin Tolchin, a 40-year Times veteran and founder of The Hill newspaper, wrote to his former paper. “Would he make a great president? Unlikely … Would he make a better president than the present occupant? Absolutely. I don’t want justice, whatever that may be. I want a win, the removal of Donald Trump from office, and Mr. Biden is our best chance.”
It is not the first time the veteran journalist has publicly criticized the White House. While promoting his memoir last year, the 91-year-old Tolchin said the Trump presidency was a form of “adversity” that had inspired “very good reporting.”
Tolchin wrote in response to a May 1 Times editorial calling for the Democratic National Committee to investigate Tara Reade’s claim that Biden forcibly penetrated her with his fingers in 1993. Reade was one of eight women who said in 2019 that Biden touched them or made them feel uncomfortable, but she did not publicly make her assault allegation until March.
“Suppose an investigation reveals damaging information concerning his relationship with Tara Reade or something else, and Mr. Biden loses the nomination to Senator Bernie Sanders or someone else with a minimal chance of defeating Mr. Trump,” Tolchin wrote. “Should we really risk the possibility?”
Republicans have criticized members of the media for downplaying Reade’s allegation, in comparison with their aggressive pursuit of allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. A Free Beacon analysis found that Biden was not asked about Reade once in 19 interviews after the former staffer went public in March. He denied the allegation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday.
The Times published its editorial 19 days after it published a lengthy news article headlined, “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden.” Though it did not reach a conclusion on Reade’s claim, Biden’s campaign instructed surrogates to cite it as proof the charge was false. In a statement, the Times rebuked the Biden campaign for misrepresenting the article.
Another nail in the coffin of public confidence in the press
America’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic is little surprise given the major media coverage. It’s another nail in the coffin of the public’s confidence the mainstream press is an information conduit and neutral arbiter of disputes between the powerful and influential rather than a mouthpiece for a political agenda.
The press has taken sides and the people don’t like it. The March 2020 Gallup poll shows its approval rating lags President Donald J. Trump and Congress and, at 44 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove, is the only institution tested with numbers underwater.
At the beginning of the current crisis, it was easy to dismiss the Chinese virus, as most media institutions called it then, as a noteworthy, probably insignificant outbreak. As recently as February, for example, New York City’s top public health official was still promoting the city’s celebration of the Chinese New Year rather than calling for self-imposed isolation.
Now, New York City has been hit harder by the COVID-19 virus than perhaps any other place in the country. That’s not surprising; it is the nation’s largest city. But it’s hard to argue based on the information available at the time that anyone promoting Chinese New Year celebrations is responsible for what’s happening now.
These are unprecedented times. We haven’t seen anything like this since the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak or the 1918 Spanish Flu. We face a threat about which we learn more each day and we remain unified, supportive of one another, and help ensure everyone is educated with the most accurate information we have at the time we have it to get through it.
Or that we must rely on a media establishment that has had trouble separating its dislike for the president from the need to get the facts to the American people. Anyone who stands with President Trump, even momentarily, is subject to criticisms that, when magnified through social media, blunt even the important and helpful things they have to say.
Fox News, the nation’s most successful cable news channel, has been and is still being attacked over its early coverage of COVID-19. This ignores how the network, like The New York Times and everyone else, shifted their tone as the seriousness of the story became more apparent. Now, instead of being praised for its coverage which, if it came from almost any other source would be hailed as good journalism, it is still under assault.
It matters, and not just for political reasons. Fox’s demographic is comprised of people considered high-risk if exposed to the virus. Recognizing this, the network has hired new health professionals and physicians as news contributors. It increased the airtime devoted to discussions of what people must do to protect themselves from COVID-19 exposure. It launched Q&A segments, roundtable discussions with physicians, townhalls, a daily blog written by medical experts where viewer questions are answered and the CoronavirusNOW.com — a free-to-use website featuring the latest news about the virus.
Moreover, and most unusual in the news business, the dayside anchors and infotainers who dominate prime time have conspicuously corrected their earlier statements downplaying the threat. Sean Hannity, who the so-called responsible media has thrashed for spreading inaccurate information, told his viewers on Feb. 27, “Make no mistake. Coronavirus, it is dangerous. Those infected are contagious before they show symptoms during incubation period. They don’t know they have the disease. The rapid spread of the virus across continents, it is, of course, concerning.”
The so-called responsible media, meanwhile, has been having a field day for which they have yet to account. On Feb. 26, New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote a piece poking fun at the president’s handling of events titled “Let’s Call It Trumpvirus.” On March 4, when CNN’s Anderson Cooper should have known better he was still telling viewers “if you’re freaked out about the Coronavirus you should be more concerned about the flu.”
And the “great, gray lady of American journalism?” Beside continually fanning the public’s fear it changed a headline on The New York Times website not once but three times to turn House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s successful bid to wreck the passage of aid to beleaguered American businesses and workers sidelined by coronavirus from a negative for the Democrats into a positive.
COVID-19 is scary. It’s an unnerving time but that doesn’t justify irresponsible attacks on anyone. The learning curve has produced plenty of human error, but the time to evaluate them is largely on the other side of the pandemic. Lots of mistakes have been made. We’re taking this day by day and must remember to be unified in the fight against the virus and not fight each other.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign from Delaware in the era of the Wuhan coronavirus by conducting remote interviews from a home studio.
Biden however, whose candidacy has survived slip-ups seemingly every month on the trail still appears forgetful and frail from the comfort of his own home. While the pressures of on-the-ground campaigning are temporarily gone, the same Biden we’ve seen for much of the last year is not.
On Monday, Biden once again refreshed concerns about the Democratic frontrunner’s age and aptitude at 77 years old to win the White House in November, offering a nonsensical jumbled word salad on MSNBC with notes in his lap.
Here’s what Biden said:
Boy those very high numbers have to do at least several things. One, we have to depend on what the president’s going to do right now, and first of all he has to… tell… wait til the cases before anything happens. Look, the whole idea is, he’s got to get in place things that were shortages of.
Biden’s Monday clip comes just a week after Biden seemed to have thrown in the towel on being articulate as he has become the likely Democratic nominee.
During an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Biden trailed off and looked defeated after mixing up his words again prompting an awkward silence on air.
“We have never, never, never, failed to respond to a crisis as a people, and I tell you what, I’m so darn proud. Those poor people who have…” Biden said before realizing what he actually said. “Anyway…”
Last week, Biden was also caught coughing while denying he had any symptoms of the Wuhan virus.
At one point on CNN, Jake Tapper directed Biden to cough into his arm as advised by public health officials.
“You know, you’re supposed to cough into your elbow… I learned that actually covering your White House,” Tapper said.
“Fortunately I’m alone in my home, but that’s okay,” Biden said.
In the last Democratic debate between Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains the final major competitor in the race, Biden also opened up with a cough to answer a question about the Wuhan virus.
So what is going on with Joe Biden?
No, the federal government shouldn’t 'take over the supply chain' for medical equipment, and yes, states can in fact govern themselves.
Watching the media react to federal and state government responses to the Wuhan coronavirus over the past few days, you would think they secretly wished we had an executive branch with unlimited powers—their hatred of President Trump notwithstanding. You would also think they have only a vague idea of what federalism is and how it’s supposed to work.
Many reporters and pundits, for example, seem to think states are almost entirely dependent on the federal government in emergency situations like this. CNN’s Jim Sciutto mused about whether the president will soon be pushing for a national curfew, seemingly unaware that the president has no power to impose such a thing.
But governors do. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday stopped just short of issuing a curfew on businesses, instead signing an executive order that strongly urges all non-essential businesses to close at 8 p.m. every night. He also activated the New Jersey National Guard to help carry out his order.
Local governments are going one step further. Portland’s city manager announced an emergency curfew on Monday, shutting down restaurants, bars, clubs, movie theaters, and any other establishments where people gather. Six counties in the San Francisco Bay area announced a “shelter in place” order for all residents—a population of some 6.7 million people—to remain in effect until April 7. It wasn’t exactly clear how the order would be enforced, but it did call on sheriffs and chiefs of police to “ensure compliance.”
Similar measures have gone into effect across the country in recent days. In New Orleans, police cleared crowds on Bourbon Street, ordering people back to their homes and hotels via loudspeaker. Lockdowns of various sorts were ordered in cities from Florida to Washington state, mostly affecting bars, restaurants, and other places crowds gather.
But here’s the thing: the president of the United States doesn’t have the power to order these things. For as much as we might think of the federal government as all-powerful, it really isn’t. The founders wisely chose a federal republic for our form of government, which means sovereignty is divided between states and the federal government.
The powers of the federal government are limited and enumerated, while all powers not granted to the feds are reserved for the states, including emergency police powers of the kind we’re seeing states and localities use now. Local governments, as creations of the states, can exercise state police powers as well.
Much of the media seems wholly unaware of this basic feature of our system of government. Exemplifying the ignorance was a widely panned tweet from an editor at The Daily Beast who seemed to think states can’t “govern themselves” without permission or direction from the president.
So the states are basically governing themselves because our president doesn’t know how to president at all?
After the Trump administration’s announcement on Monday of new, stricter guidelines to stop the spread of the virus, a media chorus arose that it wasn’t enough. “Ok. Someone finally talked some sense into the President two months into this. That’s good. But we need huge amounts of coordinated federal *action* *assistance* and *mobilization* along with the shift in rhetoric,” tweeted MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
An attitude of shock and outrage pervaded The New York Times’ coverage—as well as misleading tweets from some NYT editors—of a conference call in which Trump told governors that they should try to get ventilators and respirators for themselves. Many of the tweets left out the full context of what Trump said: “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
Asked about the Times report later in the day at the press conference, Trump explained that many governors might have a more direct line on this equipment and if so they should go ahead and acquire it themselves, no need to wait on Washington, D.C.
This is of course exactly the way federalism is supposed to work. Besides the media not getting it, many Democrats don’t seem to grasp federalism, either. A group of House Democrats on Monday urged Trump to invoke war powers to order the production of more facemasks and ventilators. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio went on cable news and declared that the federal government needs to “take over the supply chain right now” for needed medical supplies.
As the coronavirus get worse, we’re going to see a lot more actions being taken by cities, counties, and states—many more than we’ll see from the feds, in fact. That’s as it should be. We should expect the government power that’s closest to affected communities to be the most active, while Washington, D.C., concern itself with larger problems, like developing a vaccine and controlling our borders and ports of entry.
To put it another way, President Xi Jinping of China can order every Chinese citizen to stay in his or her home under threat of arrest. He can shutter every business in China by fiat. He can “take over the supply chain” of any industry whenever he wants. President Trump can’t do any of that. You’d think Democrats and the media would be relieved about that—and they might be, if they knew the first thing about federalism.
As the nation edges toward full-blown panic over the spread of the coronavirus, there are people and institutions upon whom we depend for leadership and information who should be ashamed of themselves for feeding it. Their response, loaded as it has been with worst-case scenarios and predictions of dire consequences, only compounds the fear many Americans are now experiencing.
So far, the virus has killed more than 6,500 worldwide, according to Monday’s report from the World Health Organization, and there have been about 165,000 confirmed cases. There are likely many more that are unconfirmed, as people can be ill and not show any symptoms. A large study in China found that more than 80 percent of confirmed cases had fairly mild symptoms, and under 5 percent of cases were critical.
That’s insufficient reason for rational people to panic. “Caution” should be the word of the moment. Thought leaders, politicians and medical professionals should be doing their best to prepare people for what might happen rather than pronouncing our doom—and attacking the president, as we saw in Sunday night’s debate between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, neither of whom had anything positive to say about the steps taken by the administration thus far.
This encouraging of widespread fear only makes matters worse for public health and the economy.Ads by scrollerads.com
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday that could free up $50 billion to help fight the virus. On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised his response to the outbreak in the state, as Governor Gavin Newsom did with regard to California.
Nevertheless, most of the folks who have never quite adjusted to the fact that Trump is the president of the United States are quick on the trigger with their criticism no matter what he does. They continue to overstate the lack of response by the U.S. government and blame the president for it.
That’s fair, at least to some degree. As Republican communications expert Rich Galen, my old mentor and former boss, used to remind me back when I was doing politics for a living rather than writing about it, the president gets to take a lot of credit he doesn’t deserve when good things happen, and he has to take a lot of the blame for things well beyond his control.
But remember: Trump didn’t cause the coronavirus and didn’t cause it to spread.
While the president is trying to act like the adult in the room, his opponents are going after him like vultures feeding on roadside carrion. It’s unseemly, and, more than that, the attacks on him undermine the public’s confidence in the national systems we’re depending on to keep us safe and help us manage our lives at a time when many of us can’t go to work, can’t go to our places of worship and can’t send our kids to school.
Recall, for example, Senator Chuck Schumer’s press conference last month in which he called the administration’s response to coronavirus totally inadequate. He also has been demanding expanded free coronavirus testing for anyone who wants it when he knows full well not enough test kits are available.
Likewise, new legislation negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took the president’s request for $2.5 billion in emergency funding and blew it up into an $8.3 billion aid package, passed the House on Saturday. Democrats initially failed to ensure that abortion services weren’t eligible to receive funds, and they reportedly attempted to establish a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for all families, a longtime Democratic Party desire. What former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel once said about not letting a crisis go to waste is fully on display, and it’s shameful.
To be sure, caution is in order—along with hand washing, avoiding crowds, staying home if you’re sick, covering coughs with your arm and other sensible measures. As for panic, why don’t we ask a person who has had the coronavirus? A 37-year-old woman in Seattle was reportedly “surprised” to learn she’d had the virus, after thinking it was the flu and treating it with over-the-counter medications, rest and plenty of water. Her message: “Don’t panic.”
Or consider what Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” His fellow Democrats and a more than few Republicans would do well to remember those words at this time, given that all they seem to have to offer now is fear.
Attorney General William Barr noted America’s slide toward despotism during remarks at the National Religious Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday. He highlighted changes in three institutional “bulwarks” that have long preserved liberty: “religion, the decentralization of government power, and the free press.”
Most notable was Barr’s calling out of the “remarkably monolithic” press as a vehicle for pushing Americans toward a secular progressive program and a “soft despotism,” wherein everyone is converted “into 25-year-olds living in the government’s basement, focusing our energies on obtaining a larger allowance rather than getting a job and moving out.” Barr described this progressive dream as a use of the “public purse to … build a permanent constituency of supporters who are also dependents.”
Barr noted the press, having become less like objective journalists and more like political activists, maintains massive influence in directing public opinion to “mobilize a majority” toward progressive goals.
When the media becomes a viewpoint monolith, “Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally,” Barr said. “This is not a positive cycle, and I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy.”
The relationship among journalists, politicians, and the American people has shifted since 2016 and the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election. The president has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” producing “fake news,” for which he has received much criticism. A September 2019 Gallup poll revealed only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the mass media. Public mistrust in the press cannot be attributed wholly to Trump, however. The media’s track record speaks for itself: blatant lies over the Russia collusion hoax, Trump’s impeachment, the Jussie Smollett hoax, the Covington Catholic high school students story, and grossly mischaracterized pro-life legislation, among countless other errors. The media has even mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rube[s].”
The press wielding its power in such a way is consistent with the attorney general’s assessment of progressives, however. According to Barr, progressives prop up politics as religion, taking a no-holds-barred approach — including weaponization of the press — to achieve their desired goals, which are “earthly and urgent.”
Totalitarian democracy, says Barr, “requires an all-knowing elite to guide the masses toward their determined end, and that elite relies on whipping up mass enthusiasm to preserve its power and achieve its goals. … [It] is almost always secular and materialistic, and its adherents tend to treat politics as a substitute for religion. Their sacred mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society according to an abstract ideal of perfection. The virtue of any individual is defined by whether they are aligned with the program. Whatever means used are justified because, by definition, they will quicken the pace of mankind’s progress toward perfection.”
Barr’s Wednesday remarks are reminiscent of his November 2019 speechto the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, where he said, “[S]o-called progressives treat politics as their religion. … [T]here is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”
As comedian Ricky Gervais said so pointedly at the most recent Golden Globes, Hollywood is full of people with no experience in the real world who think they should tell the rest of us how to live. Movies, once our best form of entertainment, are more and more becoming reality plays intended to shape our attitudes.
A perfect example of this is Dark Waters, a film now down to about 100 screen across America in spite of an A-list cast that includes Mark Ruffalo (who also served as producer), Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway, Bill Pullman, and Tim Robbins, a liberal’s liberal probably best known as Susan Sarandon’s former longtime lover. The film’s global gross is just over $11 million according to IMDb.com which is probably less than it cost to make and market. But there are potentially billions on the line, so the folks behind it probably would think it cheap at twice the price.
The storyline – corporate lawyer becomes do-gooder battling an evil corporation secretly poisoning groundwater in the Ohio River valley – is supposedly “based on a true story.” To translate, that means everything in the movie looks like it’s true to life even if the actual facts won’t sustain the storyline.
In this case, that’s important. The chemicals talked about in the film have not been shown to be cancer-causing or toxic to humans but, because they’re widely used (in everything from the manufacture of frying pans to fire-fighting equipment) by a company with extremely deep pockets, there’s a concerted effort underway to suggest they are in order to get into court with major damage claims generating big settlements.
As we’ve seen time and again, the lion’s share of those payouts – if they happen – will go to the lawyers and politically active groups that helped push the narrative. They won’t go to the poor people whom they claim were adversely impacted by the damaged environment. For the trial lawyers and others involved, it’s their return on investment, which will do a lot to make up for the film being overlooked by the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
No one involved in Dark Waters (or any other of these new messages movies) intended for the film to flop. It got largely positive reviews from the critics – who tend to be politically liberal, just like most of the rest of the entertainment industry – and was a boon to the folks pushing for the U.S. House of Representatives to move on legislation requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to come up with an aggressive plan for dealing with the family of chemicals labeled in the film as being so destructive despite plenty of solid science saying they’re not.
There was a time when a 126-minute, slickly produced cinematic achievement like Dark Waters would have been labeled propaganda. Now it’s just socially-conscious filmmaking, funded generously in this instance by the taxpayers. The State of Ohio provided an estimated $2.5 million in tax credits to help the film get made despite how bad it makes people living along the Ohio River look.
As study after study has shown, these special interest tax breaks rarely generate enough revenue for the state to justify them. Ohio and every other state that wants to attract filmmaking as an industry would be better off eliminating them and lowering the state income tax or some other tax rate if they’re looking to boost economic growth.
Against the advice of legendary producer Sam Goldwyn – the “G” in MGM – more and more of the film colony regard their products as an opportunity to influence the attitudes of the American public. To them, movies aren’t supposed to entertain; they’re supposed to right wrongs and address injustice. Which means the folks behind Dark Waters probably didn’t ever worry about hitting the break-even point between what they spent and what the film grossed. Its network of well-heeled, politically savvy backers likely overlooked the potential loss in order to popularize the issue and potentially taint any future jury pool in states where future lawsuits may be filed.
IndieWire may have called Dark Waters, “A didactic, sometimes listless thriller,” and the East Bay Express may have shown better judgment than some of the New York critics when it said it, “Makes for a dreary, warmed-over-Erin-Brockovich drama,” but as a tool for helping the trial bar open up new avenues to great riches, it’s a four-star effort that’s sure to launch many sequels if it works.
Internal communications prove Google is lying about its censorship decisions while paying for leftist propaganda and relying on the leftwing SPLC for its decisions.
Google insists they have processes in place to prevent political bias from influencing their policies. Individual Google employees can’t just demonetize videos, Google tells the public.
Reality paints a different picture: Google tailors its demonetization decisions to keep liberal reporters and activists happy. In fact, in court documents filed on December 29, 2017, Google’s lawyers emphasized that “Decisions about which videos fall into that [demonetization] category are often complicated and may involve difficult, subjective judgment calls.” Indeed.
Internal documents I obtained show the extent to which Google’s public relations team quarterbacks the content-policing process. One email exchange shows a Google spokeswoman making snap decisions—in direct response to media inquiries—about which YouTube videos to demonetize and which channels to scrutinize.
The catalyst was an email from a reporter from The Guardian, a left-leaning British publication, asking about specific videos. The reporter’s inquiry was based in part on complaints from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing smear factory.
Among the videos the SPLC found problematic was one satirizing sex differences. The Google public relations representative forwarded the email to the censorship team and ordered it to review the videos, “making sure they are not monetized.” In other words, censorship decisions are viewed as public relations decisions, not as content decisions.
That’s not how the process is supposed to work—and it is certainly not how Google says the process works. Public relations representatives are supposed to explain the censorship process, not dictate it to please liberal reporters. The exchange also highlights how left-wing interest groups with an egregious track record of dishonesty (like the SPLC) partner with liberal reporters to pressure big tech to censor right-of-center voices.
The fact that Google maintains a pretense of neutrality while cracking down on right-of-center content is particularly dishonest, considering that Google funds, produces, and promotes left-wing propaganda through its “Creators for Change Program.” Google has spent millions of dollars on the program, which gives left-wing YouTubers a boost from the world’s most powerful company.
That includes left-wing writer Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. Google described her as “a rising voice in social, religious, and political issues” and noted that “Amani was invited by Michelle Obama to speak at the inaugural U.S. State of Women Summit.”
What YouTube didn’t mention is that Amani’s past work includes a video claiming the September 11, 2001, Islamist terrorist attacks were “an inside job.” While YouTube was cracking down on right-wing accounts in the name of fighting conspiracy theories, the company was funding a 9/11 “truther.”
Subhi Taha, a YouTube-sponsored “Creator for Change role model,” has similarly promoted anti-Israel boycotts. YouTube and Taha collaborated on a video about Palestinian refugees—who turned out to be family friends of Taha—that promoted an outrageously one-sided narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The video stated as fact that Israel has committed genocide against Palestinians, while leaving out any mention of the actions of Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas. In fact, to call the video one-sided would be generous. It was genuine anti-Israel propaganda funded, produced, and promoted by YouTube.
In addition to smearing Israel, YouTube spends money promoting open-borders propaganda. The tech giant partnered with Creators for Change “role model” Yasmany Del Real on a video opposing enforcement of U.S. border laws. “I had the opportunity to visit some migrant centers and heard many different stories but with only one goal: to achieve the American dream,” Del Real says in the video.
“Cesar is just one of many who shares the same goal,” he continues, before introducing Cesar: a Guatemalan illegal immigrant with a previous deportation on his record. “I would love for people to have a better sense of compassion towards us immigrants. We truly only want to work and to work hard. Many of us have multiple jobs. We work during the day and evenings,” Cesar says, in Spanish.
“Many of us only want temporary work, without aspiring to stay permanently in the U.S.A.,” Cesar adds, undermining the narrator’s assertion that every border crosser is only interested in pursuing the American dream and contributing to society.
“Cesar is from Guatemala, and this is his second time trying to immigrate to the United States. This time it took him one month to reach the border. Despite the fear and anguish of knowing he could be deported a second time, Cesar remains optimistic,” Del Real explains, as the video cuts to Cesar.
“The United States is a beautiful country, it is a great place to find employment,” Cesar says. In the background, a gospel-style singer croons an open-borders anthem: “Forgive me for trespassing on your lands/That’s not an intention of mine/Family and friends we have left behind/Poverty and destitution are my only crime.”
Maybe you agree with those messages; maybe you don’t. That’s not the point. These are the kind of videos you might expect from a left-wing advocacy group or media outlet. They are not the kind of videos that a politically neutral company produces.
If Google is going to sponsor and produce left-wing content, then they should publicly acknowledge that they’re an ideologically left-wing company that is promoting left-wing narratives. Indeed, that’s what Google is: an ideologically left-leaning company staffed by people who resent the right’s success on its massive video platform and are actively working to counter it.
At the end of the day, Google agrees with leftist activists that their side deserves a built-in advantage on its platform. But that doesn’t stop them from lying about it.
While CNN is now out of the case, Nicholas Sandmann’s lawsuit against the Washington Post and NBC continues, and soon there will be some new defendants, according to his lawyers.
One year after Nicholas Sandmann’s image went viral in one of the biggest mainstream media missteps of the decade, news broke on Tuesday that CNN had agreed to settle the teen’s defamation case.
Sandmann sued CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC last year in a Kentucky federal court, alleging the media powerhouses had defamed him by claiming he had blocked Native American activist Nathan Phillips from ascending the steps of the Washington monument, while he and his Covington Catholic High School classmates surrounded him and chanted “Build the Wall.”
A video snippet of the encounter between Phillips and Sandmann—then a 16-year-old high school junior participating in the annual March for Life protest at the capital—showed the young man in a MAGA hat standing toe-to-toe with Phillips. Without pausing to learn the truth, the media ran that image along with Phillips’ tale that as he started walking toward the moment, “groups of people started separating and separating and moving aside to allow me to move out of the way, or to proceed, this young feller put himself in front of me and wouldn’t move.”
However, a full-length video of the encounter later emerged, proving that Phillips had spun the tale: Contrary to Phillips’ telling, Sandmann had not “put himself in front of” the man and hadn’t blocked his way. Rather, Phillips had marched into the group of kids, who had been waiting for their school bus as directed.
But by the time Phillips’ story had been debunked, Sandmann had been doxed, with his name and image plastered across America as a symbol of bigotry. CNN alone, according to Sandmann’s complaint, made “no less than four false and defamatory television broadcasts, nine false and defamatory internet articles, and four false and defamatory tweets of and concerning Nicholas.”
Among other defamatory statements, Sandmann’s lawsuit pointed to CNN’s January 19, 2019, broadcast opener, “We are hearing from a Native American elder and Vietnam War veteran speaking to CNN after a disturbing viral video shows a group of teens harassing and mocking him in the nation’s capital.”
Sandmann highlighted another broadcast, later published online with the subtitle, “‘SHAMEFUL ACT—VIRAL VIDEO CAPTURES TEENS MOCKING NATIVE AMERICAN VETERAN,” that began, “You’ve probably seen it by now, the viral video sweeping the Internet of a mob of MAGA hat wearing high school students surrounding a Native American chanting and drumming in the nation’s capital at the Indigenous Peoples March.” CNN’s broadcast then added that Phillips and “others were harassed and taunted by students from Covington Catholic High School, a private all boys school in Kentucky.”
With these samplings of CNN’s reporting on the incident, it is no wonder that CNN quickly cut its losses and settled with Sandmann. The details of the settlement are unknown, and when asked about the payout for the teen, Sandmann’s Kentucky-based lawyer, Todd McMurtry had no comment. However, McMurtry told The Federalist, that “the outpouring of support in Northern Kentucky for the settlement with CNN has been overwhelming.”
The support spans more than Sandmann’s home state, with news of the settlement quickly filtering through social media. Conservatives celebrated CNN’s comeuppance, seeing the settlement as not just vindication of the young teen, but as a payback of sorts to the fake news they’ve seen peddled of late by the airport lounge-lizard.
While CNN is now out of the case, Sandmann’s lawsuit against the Washington Post and NBC continues, and soon there will be some new defendants, according to McMurtry. McMurtry told The Federalist his team will soon name Gannett, the owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, as an additional defendant.
Sandmann’s lawyers are also considering claims against ABC, CBS, The Guardian, Huffington Post, NPR, and Slate, as well as several smaller media outlets. McMurtry noted that during Tuesday’s scheduling conference, Sandmann’s legal team assured the judge that additional defendants would be added in the next 30 – 40 days.
Which defendants Sandmann eventually pulls in will depend on several factors. First, the lawyers will focus on the defamatory statements presiding Judge William Bertelsman held were legally actionable. Those included statements that Sandmann had “blocked” Phillips and “wouldn’t allow Phillips to retreat,” and the assertion that Sandmann or the other students shouted “build that wall” at Phillips or the nearby Black Hebrew Israelites.
After determining which media outlets made or repeated those false statements, the question of personal jurisdiction arises. To sue in a federal court in Kentucky, the court must have “personal jurisdiction” or “power” over the defendants. Generally, speaking that requires the defendants to have “minimum contacts” with the state. For the larger media outlets, that standard is easily met, but questions abound when you consider online-media platforms or smaller outlets. Finally, Sandmann’s lawyers will likely do a cost-benefit-analysis to determine whether it is worth pulling in additional defendants.
On this last point, a unique area of Kentucky law creates some uncertainties. Kentucky is one of few “pure comparative fault” states. In a pure comparative fault state, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by his own fault, if any—not relevant to the Sandmann case—and damages are allocated to each defendant based on their relative fault. So, theoretically, if Sandmann’s damages totaled $300 million, each defendant would be liable proportionately to his fault. Some of the smaller media outlets’ responsibility might tally a mere 1 percent of the total culpability, making them not worth the effort to sue.
That is assuming Kentucky’s pure comparative fault statute, KRS 411.182, applies to defamation. It might not: Every false statement of fact impugning the young Sandmann might be considered its own separate wrong—like several separate car accidents, as opposed to a mass collusion.
Judge Bertelsman has not yet definitely decided how Kentucky’s pure comparative negligence law applies in Sandmann’s situation, but his attorneys appear to be playing it safe by looking to add any big players who peddled the same balderdash as CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC. Once all the parties are added, it will be time for the real fun—discovery—because that’s when we may see a glimpse of what the left-leaning media really thinks about conservatives.
Knowledge can be found at all ages, and in all places. And ethics has nothing to do with degrees or pedigrees.
The Washington Post recently published a surprising indictment of MSNBC host, Stanford graduate, and Rhodes scholar Rachel Maddow.
Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that Maddow deliberately misled her audience by claiming the now-discredited Steele dossier was largely verifiable — even at a time when there was plenty of evidence that it was mostly bogus.
At the very time Maddow was reassuring viewers that Christopher Steele was believable, populist talk radio and the much-criticized Fox News Channel were insisting that most of Steele’s allegations simply could not be true. Maddow was wrong. Her less-degreed critics proved to be right.
In 2018, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), and the committee’s then-ranking minority member, Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), each issued contrasting reports of the committee’s investigation into allegations of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign team and the misbehavior of federal agencies.
Schiff’s memo was widely praised by the media. Nunes’s report was condemned as rank and partisan.
Many in the media went further. They contrasted Harvard Law graduate Schiff with rural central Californian Nunes to help explain why the clever Schiff got to the bottom of collusion and the “former dairy farmer” Nunes was “way over his head” and had “no idea what’s going on.”
Recently, the nonpartisan inspector general of the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, found widespread wrongdoing at the DOJ and FBI. He confirmed the key findings in the Nunes memo about the Steele dossier and its pernicious role in the FISA application seeking a warrant against former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page.
In contrast, much of what the once-praised Schiff had claimed to be true was proven wrong by Horowitz — from Schiff’s insistence that the FBI verified the Steele dossier to his assertion that the Department of Justice did not rely chiefly on the dossier for its warrant application.
When special counsel Robert Mueller formed an investigatory team, he stocked it with young, progressive Washington insiders, many with blue-chip degrees and résumés.
The media swooned. Washington journalists became giddy over the prospect of a “dream team” of such “all-stars” who would demolish the supposedly far less impressively credentialed Trump legal team.
We were assured by a snobbish Vox: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team is full of pros. Trump’s team makes typos.”
Yet after 22 months and $32 million worth of investigation, Mueller’s team found no Russian collusion and no evidence of actionable Trump obstruction during the investigation of that non-crime. All the constant media reports that “bombshell” Mueller team disclosures were imminent and that the “walls are closing in” on Trump proved false.
Mueller himself testified before Congress, only to appear befuddled and almost clueless at times about his own investigation. Many of his supposedly brightest all-stars, such as Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, and Kevin Clinesmith, had to leave his dream team due to unethical behavior.
In contrast, Trump’s widely derided chief lawyers — 69-year-old Ty Cobb, 78-year-old John Dowd, and 63-year-old radio and TV host Jay Sekulow — stayed out of the headlines. They advised Trump to cooperate with the Mueller team and systematically offered evidence and analyses to prove that Trump did not collude with the Russian to warp the 2016 election. In the end, Mueller’s “hunter-killer team” was forced to agree.
When the supposed clueless Trump was elected, a number of elites pronounced his economic plans to be absurd. We were told that Trump was bound to destroy the U.S. economy.
Former Princeton professor and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman insisted that Trump would crash the stock market. He even suggested that stocks might never recover.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said Trump would bring on a recession within a year and a half.
The former head of the National Economic Council, Steven Rattner, predicted a market crash of “historic proportions.”
In contrast, many of Trump’s economic advisers during his campaign and administration, including outsider Peter Navarro, pundit Steven Moore, former TV host Larry Kudlowm and octogenarian Wilbur Ross, were caricatured.
Yet three years later, in terms of the stock market, unemployment, energy production and workers’ wages, the economy has been doing superbly.
The point of these sharp contrasts is not that an Ivy League degree or a Washington reputation is of little value, or that prestigious prizes and honors account for nothing, or even that supposed experts are always unethical and silly.
Instead, one lesson is that conventional wisdom and groupthink tend to mislead, especially in the age of online echo chambers and often sheltered and blinkered elite lives.
We forget that knowledge can be found at all ages, and in all places. And ethics has nothing to do with degrees or pedigrees.
By Red State•
I have to admit that my biggest surprises of this election cycle have been the speed with which former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s favorite underling, Kamala Harris, crashed and burned and the difficulty that Elizabeth Warren has zipping to the head of the field. If you check my writing earlier in this year, I fully expected the 2020 contest to be a Trump-Warren cage match.
That has not materialized. Harris is out. Warren is engaged in a race for second place with superannuated commie Bernie Sanders. And, as in most competitive endeavors, the technical term for someone finishing in second place is “loser.”
Why might that be? The New York Times has an answer, the major media are just too biased towards centrist candidates.
Last month, [Politico founding editor and current columnist John F.] Harris wrote a column that I can’t get out of my head. In it, he argued that political journalism suffers from “centrist bias.” As he explained, “This bias is marked by an instinctual suspicion of anything suggesting ideological zealotry, an admiration for difference-splitting, a conviction that politics should be a tidier and more rational process than it usually is.”
The bias caused much of the media to underestimate Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Donald Trump in 2016. It also helps explain the negative tone running through a lot of the coverage of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders this year.
Centrist bias, as I see it, confuses the idea of centrism (which is very much an ideology) with objectivity and fairness. It’s an understandable confusion, because American politics is dominated by the two major parties, one on the left and one on the right. And the overwhelming majority of journalists at so-called mainstream outlets — national magazines, newspapers, public radio, the non-Fox television networks — really are doing their best to treat both parties fairly.
Once you start thinking about centrist bias, you recognize a lot of it. It helps explain why the 2016 presidential debates focused more on the budget deficit, a topic of centrist zealotry, than climate change, almost certainly a bigger threat. (Well-funded deficit advocacy plays a role too.) Centrist bias also helps explain the credulousness of early coverage during the Iraq and Vietnam wars. Both Democrats and Republicans, after all, largely supported each war.
The theory goes this way. Because the media are unwilling to give a fair hearing to outside-the-box ideas, those ideas never take off. And the columnist points to many things that were not considered moderate and now are.
The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, labor rights, the New Deal, civil rights for black Americans, Reagan’s laissez-faire revolution and same-sex marriage all started outside the boundaries of what either party favored.
I think that is a fairly shallow understanding of any of those issues. For instance, when you read the Republican platform for the 1860 election, it is pretty obvious that at least one party was running for office on the idea of abolition of slavery. If this columnist is in doubt, the slave state governors were not.
All in all, I think this theory is one of those self-pleasuring exercises to which our media is prone. If you look at the coverage given any campaign by the media, you will actually find next to no coverage of any significant issue. If you’re getting your economic commentary from any outlet that employs Paul Krugman, you’re really doing it all wrong. Quite honestly, the media are not at all reticent about pushing outlandish ideas when their reporters are sympathetic to the cause. If you’re trying to tell me the media did not push homosexual marriage and are not agitating for a pride of place for transgenderism now, you’re nuts.
Neither Warren nor Sanders failing to excite the masses is a mystery. Everyone knows Warren is a fraud and a liar. Even if you think President Trump is also a fraud and a liar you are forced to admit that Trump is, at least, an entertaining one who doesn’t care how you spend your money or how many sheets of toilet paper you use per bowel movement. Sanders is a communist. He’s a guy who honeymooned in the USSR while it was aiming nuclear missiles at the United States. No number of position papers and supporting experts is going to get that past a majority of Americans.
As to some of the other specifics. Americans aren’t, at least for another few decades, going to support a “wealth tax” because most Americans hate the IRS much more than they hate rich people. And a lot of us have a sneaking desire to be wealthy one day. Americans aren’t going to support Medicare for All because we saw how the government’s ability to make a soup sandwich out of a functioning program by the Obamacare debacle. Seniors don’t want the system changed. People who have other means don’t want to be a part of it.
The reason why nutty ideas don’t make it to the top tier is because Americans are a fairly conservative people unless faced by extraordinary circumstances. The media don’t push the nutbaggery their staff would support because in order to be credible you have to at least pretend to have a grip on reality. Media coverage of issues actually follows policy debate, it doesn’t lead them.
The claim that the media try to treat both parties fairly is so bizarre as to rate a 911 call and have the nice guys with the butterfly nets and Thorazine cappuccino show up to save the writer from himself.
Nope. It isn’t centrist bias holding back Warren and Sanders. It is their own flaws and the silliness of the policies they are pushing, both of which are readily discernible to even a casual observer, that is causing them to flounder. If there were a centrist bias, then Joe Biden, at least in this Democrat field, would be well over 50%. But he isn’t because there isn’t such a bias and even if there were, the media doesn’t have that kind of impact on the electorate. Or maybe Joe Biden isn’t a centrist. He’s the guy campaigning on free sex-change operations in prison.
This is just another example of a moribund industry trying to puff up its own importance. It is superficial and silly and a perfect metaphor for our political punditry.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s threat to withhold impeachment articles from the Senate upended the procedures spelled out in the Constitution and threw Capitol Hill into deeper partisan turmoil Thursday.
Republicans balked that the speaker was “afraid” of a Senate trial that is all but assured to acquit President Trump and potentially discredit the House’s party-line impeachment vote.
The day after Mrs. Pelosi’s Democrats impeached Mr. Trump on two counts — the first impeachment in U.S. history to have no bipartisan support — she cut off reporters’ impeachment questions at her weekly press conference.
“No one is above the law and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No one is above the law and this president has been held accountable,” the California Democrat said.
She then explained that she did not know when the House would take the next steps in the process of sending the two impeachment articles to the Senate, where the Constitution dictates the impeached president will stand trial and face removal from office.
The Constitution requires that the Senate “shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.”
And yet Mrs. Pelosi said the House would not name the impeachment managers who argue the case in the Senate or send the articles over until she was satisfied that the Republican-run upper chamber would conduct what she called “a fair trial.”
Asked about Republican complaints that she was “playing games” with impeachment, Mrs. Pelosibecome adamant.
“I was not prepared to put the managers in that bill yet because we don’t know the arena that we are in. Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say,” she told the gathering of reporters before refusing any further impeachment questions.
Other House Democrats, including members of the leadership team, said they were prepared to delay indefinitely the articles of impeachment until Mr. McConnell provided the assurances they want on the trial.
“We would be crazy to walk in there knowing he set up a kangaroo court,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, told CNN.
Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested the House could continue to gather evidence while withholding the articles.
House Democrats could use the time to keep pursuing court action to force testimony from White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and former White House Counsel Don McGahn, she said.
However, the Justice Department immediately filed a court brief arguing that Democrats’ legal battle to compel testimony from Mr. McGahn should be tossed out now that Mr. Trump has been impeached.
“The committee’s primary asserted need for subpoenaing McGahn — his potential testimony related to an obstruction-of-justice impeachment charge — appears to be moot,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.
“They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process but now they’re content to sit on their hands. It is comical,” he said on the chamber floor.
Mr. Trump weighed in by saying Mrs. Pelosi’s gamesmanship was bad for the country.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up! The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!” the president tweeted.
The House impeached Mr. Trump on two counts, abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
The impeachment stemmed from Mr. Trump asking Ukraine for “a favor” in investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter, who is linked to Ukraine energy company in that graft-riddled country.
Mr. Trump is accused of withholding $391 million in military aid from Ukraine and a prized White House visit for the Ukrainian president as leverage to get the investigation announced.
It was unclear how, or even whether, a delay would pressure the Senate to adopt Democrat-friendly procedures for a trial. The move also appeared to run afoul of the Constitution, effectively nullifying the House impeachment vote.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, welcomed Mrs. Pelosi’s delay tactic.
“Her threat to the Senate is: Do exactly what I want or I’m not going to impeach the president, I’m not going to send over the impeachment articles,” he told Fox News. “My attitude is, ‘OK, throw us in that brier patch. Don’t send them. That’s all right. We actually have work to do.’”
Mr. McConnell said the Democrat-run House produced a “shoddy” impeachment work product, rushed through a 12-week impeachment inquiry and refused to go to court to enforce subpoenas for White House documents and testimony by administration officials.
He noted that the impeachment investigations into President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton both lasted more than a year.
“Democrats’ own actions concede that their allegations are unproven,” he said.
Mr. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, met Thursday to begin negotiating the rules and procedures for the hearing. They were not expected to nail down the details beyond setting a possible start date, but the two men did not get that far and remain at an impasse.
Mr. Schumer has demanded live testimony from witnesses during the trial, saying more evidence should be presented. Republicans refused, saying the standard set in the impeachment trial against Mr. Clinton should be applied to Mr. Trump.
In 1998, the two sides agreed to hear from the House impeachment managers and then from the president’s legal team before deciding whether to call witnesses. Mr. McConnell said the process worked for the Democrats back then, and it should work for Mr. Trump, too.
Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said there is no requirement as to when the House must transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“There is no obligation to actually transmit the articles. She would do this to indefinitely wound Trump, and avoid a trial the [Democrats] will lose,” Mr. Blackman said.