In its first-of-its-kind “whole-of-DHS” Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA) report, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides a comprehensive look at the major domestic threats to the American homeland. Among them, it cites: Cyber, Foreign Influence Activity, Economic Security, Terrorism, Transnational Criminal Organization, Illegal Immigration, and Natural Disasters.
Unfortunately, the majority of media has only focused on one subset of one of those threat categories – White Supremacists. Right-wing extremism is a serious and growing danger, as highlighted today by the FBI’s arrest of several “militia members” for plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Governor.
However, the media ignores the DHS report’s concerns that this threat is also being exacerbated and fuelled by the violent racial chaos incited by the radical Left.
By exclusively and selectively highlighting one clause, in one line, in the 25-page report, the media made it appear this was the only threat in the entire report. Instead, it is only one part of a large range of domestic threats the report covers. More importantly, the media totally ignores DHS report’s concern over how recent anti-police and racial rioting may fuel and provide cover for violence in these other groups.
In context, the report states that “Ideologically motivated lone offenders and small groups pose the most likely terrorist threat to the Homeland, with Domestic Violent Extremists presenting the most persistent and lethal threat.”
It then goes on to note that, “Among DVEs [Domestic Violent Extremists], racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs)—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.”
The HTA continues by saying, “Spikes in other DVE threats probably will depend on political or social issues that often mobilize other ideological actors to violence, such as immigration, environmental, and police-related policy issues.”
This means that domestic extremists other than White Supremacists – such as Leftist environmental or pro-immigrant and anti-police extremists, could pose a greater threat, depending on circumstances.
To support its assessment on WSEs, DHS focuses on life-threatening homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) attacks in the U.S. in 2018 and 2019 – a fairly limited timeframe and crime definition. Excluded from this are violent, yet, not immediately “life-threatening” incidents such as riots.
Of these past two years, the report says, “2019 was the most lethal year for domestic violent extremism in the United States since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.” According to the DHS data, Violent Extremists conducted 16 attacks, killing 48 people. Of those, “WSEs conducted half of all lethal attacks (8 of 16), resulting in the majority of deaths (39 of 48).”
While all killings are tragic, these numbers are far less dramatic considering that over 500 people have been murdered on the streets of Chicago so far this year.
Still, the threat is real, and should not be ignored.
What should also not be ignored are the next bullets in the report about how “Other racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists [other than White Supremacists] could seek to exploit concerns about social injustice issues to incite violence and exploit otherwise peaceful protests movements.”
This appears to refer to how the current wave of violent, unchecked Leftist BLM/Antifa racial and anti-police protests and riots are encouraging and inciting others to violence as well, while also being pushed by foreign state actors.
The HTA states:
ANOTHER MOTIVATING FORCE BEHIND DOMESTIC TERRORISM THAT ALSO POSES A THREAT TO THE HOMELAND IS ANTI-GOVERNMENT/ANTI-AUTHORITY VIOLENT EXTREMISM.
Yes, DHS rightly notes that a subgroup of American extremists, White Supremacists, pose a significant threat of lethal attacks in the U.S., but they are far from the only threat, as the media has portrayed.
Meanwhile, the media ignores DHS concerns about the significant role that current Leftist-incited chaos, rioting, and violence are playing in increasing all these threats.
Reporters love to play “Gotcha” with politicians. It’s in their DNA. A story about a politician caught doing something that conflicts with his or her platform is editorial gold. Sometimes.
What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. A conservative “family values” Republican caught in an affair or a self-described “pro-life” politician who is rumored to have paid for a girlfriend’s abortion becomes national news with remarkable speed. And it’s not just the politico involved who must deal with it. It becomes an issue in other races when fellow Republican candidates and officeholders are asked about it, as they invariably are.
The same is not true for Democrats. Exhibit A is the extramarital dalliance of the very married former U.S. senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
Edwards not only had an affair with a campaign aide but fathered a child out of wedlock. The rumors about all this were rampant—and relevant, considering how he made the strength of his marriage to his dying wife Elizabeth a centerpiece of his personal narrative. Yet no mainstream media outlet would go near the story until it broke in the National Enquirer and everyone had to cover it.
Admittedly, those running on the GOP platform who make themselves vulnerable to such charges generally deserve what they get. What’s odd—or at least worthy of comment—is how hard it is to call out Democrats who are caught committing economic hypocrisy.
Democrats who campaign on a platform urging more social spending and trumpeting their concern for the poor, but whose tax returns show they gave little to charity, have never had to deal with a media firestorm over the issue.
One good example of an economic hypocrite is businessman Tom Steyer, who made billions investing in oil and natural gas. He ran for president on an anti-oil and gas platform that heavily promoted renewable energy (after he’d made his money and was spending it freely) so he could prevent anyone from doing what he’d done in the future. If that sounds to you an awful lot like “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” you’re not wrong.
Steyer’s not the only Democrat with this problem. Candace Valenzuela, a Democrat running in Texas’ open 24th Congressional District, has attracted national interest because she’d be the first Afro-Latina in Congress if she wins. She’s made attacks on corporations and “corporate social interests” a central theme of her campaign, evading discussion of how she personally profited from the oil and gas industry thanks to the job her husband once held at a subsidiary of Caterpillar, one of the country’s largest manufacturing concerns.
Valenzuela’s positions on the environment and American energy production are to the left of even the Green New Deal. She’s on record opposing American fossil fuel production and calling for a stop to all oil and gas permitting. Not good for Texas, not good for Caterpillar, but good for her because the economic benefits she reaped from the oil and natural gas industry are already in the bank.
Valenzuela’s not the only Democrat whose positions are at odds with their personal economic narrative.
Arizona’s Tom O’Halleran, running for reelection in the state’s First Congressional District, likes to tout his work getting federal funding to clean up polluted uranium mines on land belonging to the Navajo Nation. Yet his family has bought, sold, and still owns thousands of shares in different mining companies, one of which abandoned more than 75 uranium mines on that same land. Is O’Halleran seeking tax dollars to clean up his own mess? One could argue he is.
Then there’s Rep. Gil Cisneros, who has for years been invested in and profited from “Big Pharma” but is running for reelection calling for lower prices for prescription drugs. And there’s a whole bunch of Democrats in the campaign finance reform and corporate social responsibility crowd who’ve broken their pledge to refuse corporate PAC dollars.
Somehow none of that rises to the level of interest in the hypocrisy shown when a “family-values” congressional Republican is accused of an affair with a staffer. And, when a similar case involving now-former California Democratic congresswoman Katie Hill came to light, it was a race to see who could find the best excuse for her behavior and the most effective way to shift blame (and the story) onto someone else.
As a matter of policy, economic hypocrisy is just as big an issue as those that arise in matters of personal conduct. It’s obvious to the people, at least when they know about it. It should be just as obvious to the press.
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.
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?
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.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe made its way to CNN last week. In a meme tweeted out by the Trump campaign, the character Thanos with the face of Donald Trump snaps his fingers and makes Democratic House leadership wisp away in black ashes. The apples and bananas (more bananas) network was aghast, devoting segment after segment to Thanos.
Meanwhile, a report was released that showed the federal government has been lying for decades about the Afghanistan War, but that didn’t get much coverage at all.
The fireworks began with Don Lemon left speechless by the meme on December 10th. Lemon seems genuinely devastated that a president made a joke about a comic book character.
Between December 11th and the 15th, CNN ran an additional four segments on Thanos totaling more than 8 minutes, sharing the segments widely on social media.
A couple of days later on her afternoon show, Brooke Baldwin had on Jim Starlin, the man who created the character of Thanos, to talk about how upset he was that the president had used his creation in the meme. At one point Baldwin, looking as serious as cancer, says to him, “Explain who Thanos is…” Starlin says he is a genocidal maniac, although as Federalist publisher Ben Domenech has pointed out, he could also be a considered a well-intentioned environmentalist who understands the grave dangers of overpopulation.
On the following day, CNN was still discussing this comic book joke, still horrified by it and now reporting about the “backlash” against it, which seems to exist almost entirely in cable newsrooms because no actual people care about it.
On December 9th, the Washington Post published the bombshell Afghanistan Papers showing that the Pentagon under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama consistently and persistently lied about progress in the Afghanistan War. The war has been waged now for 18 years. In the same five-day period CNN was obsessing over a Thanos meme, the outlet made only one oblique mention of the Afghan Papers.
For any legitimate news outlet this would be absolutely insane, but this is CNN we are talking about, so it makes perfect sense. First, the Afghan Papers don’t involve Trump, meaning they aren’t an opening to trash Trump, so why would CNN care about it? Perhaps more importantly, the papers do implicate the administration of CNN’s patron saint Barack Obama, who as we all know didn’t have a single scandal in his time in office and is the only man ever to be exactly six feet tall.
At a CNN event I covered about two months ago, its President Jeff Zucker was interviewed by its media critic Brian Stelter. Here’s what I wrote at the time: “Asked what he thought was the biggest thing CNN does wrong, Zucker had no answer. When Stelter provided one, namely that they use the term ‘Breaking News,’ too often, he begrudgingly agreed, but basically sloughed it off as something everyone does. That is how blameless he envisions the product he creates. The panel finished with Zucker explaining how important it is to the world that CNN be strong.”
I’d like to nominate obsessing over a meme while ignoring a major scandal involving the longest war in American history as something more wrong than using “Breaking News” too much. Once again, CNN has proven to be a quality source for all the news that fits the narrative and none of the news that doesn’t.
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, on the findings of his FISA report. After providing months of wall to wall impeachment coverage, CNN and MSNBC decided not to air the full hearings with Horowitz.
CNN and MSNBC stopped following the IG hearing after about 30 minutes, and both refused to cover the opening statements by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The decision does not align with the recent live hearing coverage standard both networks have held for the last few months, giving endless air time to the impeachment hearings lead by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, and Rep. Jerry Nadler.
Media personalities are noticing this unfair balance.
CNN is not taking the Senate Horowitz hearing live. Unbelievable. A perfect example of how bias works. It’s not just what they cover. It’s what they don’t cover.33K10:28 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy13.9K people are talking about this
CNN and MSNBC refusing to run Senator Lindsey Graham’s opening statement in the Horowitz hearing. The most blatant form of media bias that I have ever seen. RIP, American journalism.37.4K10:39 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy15.8K people are talking about this
After giving their air time COMPLETELY over to Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff for the past few weeks, CNN IS NOT AIRING the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Horowitz’s IG report. #StopTheMadness
It’s impossible for CNN to claim they’re *not* a propaganda network after refusing to air the IG report when they aired every second of Nadler, Schiff, and Pelosi pushing for impeachment.
They don’t want their audience to be informed on what’s actually happening.3,77410:43 AM – Dec 11, 2019 · Arlington, VATwitter Ads info and privacy1,801 people are talking about this
Ronna McDaniel, the GOP Chairwoman was also upset over CNN’s omission.
“CNN aired everything Schiff and Nadler had to say. Why aren’t they showing Lindsey Graham? Is it because the facts of how the FBI mistreated Donald Trump contradict their coverage over the last 3 years?” McDaniel tweeted.
CNN aired everything Schiff & Nadler had to say. Why aren’t they showing @LindseyGrahamSC? Is it because the facts of how the FBI mistreated @realDonaldTrump contradict their coverage over the last 3 years? https://twitter.com/SteveGuest/status/1204780316101152768?s=20 …Steve Guest✔@SteveGuestAfter giving their air time COMPLETELY over to Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff for the past few weeks, CNN IS NOT AIRING the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Horowitz’s IG report. #StopTheMadness11.2K10:38 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy7,792 people are talking about this
If the IG report proved that the FBI acted perfectly within its boundaries, as the mainstream media claim, then what’s the harm in airing this footage? The truth is, the IG report revealed abuse of power at the highest levels of the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community.
The truth does not fit the CNN and MSNBC agenda, and that is why they refuse to give a platform to it.
The media has for decades been constructing a pretense that an elderly four-time cancer patient who falls asleep on the job and can barely walk is peppy, alert, and capable.
On Sunday, CNN’s “Reliable Sources” did a segment about President Trump’s recent doctor visit that opened with host Brian Stelter questioning, “Trump says he went for a very routine physical because he had extra time, but does it all add up?” Stelter brought on medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to question the official story of what the chyron called “Trump’s Mystery Hospital Visit.”
“Any time a 73-year-old man with clinical obesity and a history of heart disease goes to the hospital unannounced, obviously medical people are going to ask why, what prompted that?” Gupta said. “And keep in mind, the president going to the hospital is a big deal, no matter what.”
Gupta then tried to read the tea leaves into the hospital not being informed and prepped beforehand of the president’s visit and the fact that a week ago the White House doctor rode with Trump in the car, which he says is unusual. Gupta then worried about the possibility that the doctors were “beholden to the president” and might not tell Trump the truth about his health. Gupta reiterated these concerns in an accompanying 2,100-word CNN article the same day.
While CNN devoted all this to one news story about a top political figure’s unannounced doctor visit, corporate media outlets in general have been busy sending the opposite messaging about a litany of health difficulties for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The 86-year-old Ginsburg was admitted to the hospital on Friday with “chills and fever.” The Supreme Court’s oldest justice went home Sunday, according to CBS’s Jan Crawford.
BREAKING FROM SCOTUS: Justice Ginsburg was hospitalized overnight at Johns Hopkins with chills and fever. Symptoms have abated, expected to be released tomorrow.
Justice Ginsburg released from Johns Hopkins. “She is home and doing well,” Court says in a statement. The justices return to the bench for arguments Dec 2.
The reports on her illness from CNN, USA Today, Bloomberg, and The New York Times were routine writeups of the press statements Crawford posted. Instead of 2,000 words of probing about the “mystery” behind Ginsburg’s series of recent ailments, CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue pointed out evidence of Ginsburg’s vigor, such as her participation the same day she was hospitalized in an “important” Supreme Court conference.
“I have been watching her carefully since the beginning of this term, and she has been such an active participant. She’s often the first one asking questions, and she follows up,” de Vogue commented. De Vogue failed to point out that Ginsburg has been known for the past 13 years to fall asleep during oral arguments, although she did mention that the justice has had cancer four times.
“This is a very strong woman who has had frail health at times,” de Vogue concluded. “But, boy, she’s a strong woman.”
Ginsburg is clearly a strong woman in the personality sense. That is beside the point. If she were not a far-left political actor, Ginsburg’s health record would not be lipsticked. It’s also much worse than Trump’s. She’s 13 years older than Trump, who is 73. She’s been falling asleep in oral arguments since 2006. Ginsburg also fell asleep during two of President Obama’s State of the Union Addresses and Pope Francis’s speech to Congress in 2015.
Ginsburg can barely get herself off the Supreme Court dais, another long-time situation. She is typically extremely hard to hear when she speaks from the bench. Two weeks ago, she missed oral arguments due to a stomach bug. She also missed two weeks of oral arguments in January due to lung cancer surgery. The first two times she was treated for cancer, in 1999 and 2009, she didn’t miss a day of oral arguments.
In August, Ginsburg was treated with three weeks of radiation for a different cancer, pancreatic. Last November, she fell and broke three ribs. Ginsburg is simply and clearly not in good health. The divergence in treatment between her health history and Trump’s was replicated in media dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s fainting spell, the Washington Free Beacon noted.
The opposite-world media coverage is not shocking, because corporate media do free PR for the left, but it is unfair and impedes the American people’s business. The Supreme Court always considers significant cases, and those pending are no exception: whether Trump can undo President Obama’s executive order suspending immigration laws, whether laws against sex discrimination require employers to allow cross-dressing, whether religious schools may participate in state choice programs, to what extent states may regulate abortion, and more.
If Ginsburg is not capable of fully performing her duties in these cases, she should step down. If she is not capable of recognizing whether she should step down, others should guide her to do so.
Working furiously against this needed realization, the media has for decades been constructing a pretense that an elderly four-time cancer patient who falls asleep on the job and can barely walk is peppy, alert, and capable. Back in 2013, the Washington Post published a cutesy profile of Ginsburg’s personal trainer, who got her to peak performance of 20 pushups. That same year, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin claimed she was stronger than younger justices using the same workout equipment.
Stephanie Mencimer described in Mother Jones last year other media efforts in this absurd PR campaign to pep up an elderly justice with a long and serious history of health difficulties:
Details of [Ginsburg’s exercise routine] appear in Notorious RBG, and Ginsburg allowed the RBG documentary makers to film her doing pushups and tossing a medicine ball—proof, the film implies, that she is nowhere near death’s door.
Last year, personal trainer Johnson published The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong and You Can Too, for which Ginsburg wrote the foreword. In March, Ginsburg helped promote the book by going on TV to work out with Stephen Colbert …Only the most die-hard superfan could call Ginsburg’s Colbert performance anything but cringeworthy—those things she does with Johnson are most definitely not pushups. The episode felt like a desperate attempt to convince the world, and maybe Ginsburg herself, that she didn’t grievously miscalculate in refusing to retire before 2014.
Watch the Colbert clip here: https://youtu.be/0oBodJHX1Vg
If it were Trump who had been a four-time cancer survivor who could barely walk down three steps, we’d be enduring a media thunderstorm demanding he resign rather than watching sunny profiles of him lifting five pounds with help next to a comedian. We’d have the Supreme Court potentially ushering Ginsburg off the bench the same way they ushered out Associate Justice William O. Douglas in 1975 after he suffered a debilitating stroke but still refused to resign. (Read the link — his story is shocking.)
Why would a justice well into the twilight years and by all appearances having a rough time not retire gracefully so her succession could be well-planned for optimal benefit to the nation? Everyone knows the answer: Because the Supreme Court is not a strictly judicial force that applies the laws as they are written. It is a political institution that makes political decisions, not a legal institution that makes legal decisions.
Ginsburg is among the justices notorious for her manipulation of the law. That legal corruption does make her job easier for her age. She doesn’t need to actually analyze the law itself, she just needs to know what would be politically advantageous to the left and rule accordingly, as she has done her entire tenure.
Still, Ginsburg obviously doesn’t want to retire while a Republican has the power to appoint her successor. Along with the entire Democrat-Media Complex, Ginsburg badly miscalculated by assuming Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in 2016 and thus didn’t resign while Obama could appoint her replacement.
So Ginsburg is now stuck in political purgatory, having to sit on the bench as her already delicate health declines even further. For her sake, and the country’s, let’s pray her departure doesn’t look anything like Douglas’s — and that her successor helps undo the court’s overweening importance as an unelected superlegislature in which justices’ personal politics can subvert the law.
For three years many of journalism’s most prestigious news outlets won acclaim for making and repeating claims President Trump and his team had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. No accusation, from secret meetings in Prague to tales of prostitutes peeing on beds, was deemed unfit to print. When they wanted to signal to readers that they were conveying claims instead of facts, their hedge words of choice – “unverified” or “not yet proved” were favorites – strongly suggested that confirmation was on the way.
Call it the Trump Standard.
Now those same news outfits are observing a new standard of proof, at least when it involves former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who enjoyed a lucrative relationship with a Ukrainian gas company. This new norm demands that, absent definitive proof, assertions must be labeled as “without evidence” or said to be supported by “no evidence.”
Call it the Biden Standard.
Journalists have been appropriately skittish about appearing to spread Trump talking points – especially his accusation that while serving as vice president Joe Biden demanded a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired because he was investigating the gas company, Burisma, that was paying his son Hunter tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Trump’s allegation has not been proved. But Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on the Ukraine. His son has said Burisma probably hired him because of who his is father and Joe Biden did demand the prosecutor’s firing – because, he says, the prosecutor wasn’t doing enough to root out corruption. Still, the Burisma probe was dropped.
Normally media would greet such an arrangement skeptically, to say the least. A politician’s son making hay in a business over which his father has some sway? That’s the sort of stuff traditionally met with journalistic lectures not only on the evils of conflicts of interest but on the perils of the mere appearance of such conflicts. Instead, in this instance, reporters and editors have read from the same script to diminish and discredit such concerns.
“There is no evidence to support that claim,” stated CBS News. The Hill newspaper hit the same notes: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind.” Esquire declared there is “no evidence Joe Biden made any effort to protect his son’s interests as Vice President.”
Reporting on corruption at Burisma, the Wall Street Journal was quick to assure readers “there is no evidence to suggest they [the Bidens] broke any laws.” As for the allegations that Hunter personally profited from his father’s position, Politico seemed to contradict Hunter himself, casting them as “claims for which there is no evidence.”
But none have outdone the New York Times. As far back as May, the Times pronounced “No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal.” Last month, the Times declared at least half a dozen times that there was “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing.
There is ample evidence for key parts of the story. Hunter Biden, for example, has publicly admitted he exhibited “poor judgment” in taking money from Burisma. The Obama administration was concerned enough about Hunter Biden’s employment that Marie Yovanovitch was coached on how to answer questions about it in her Senate confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Ukraine.
For those who might find the repeated assertions that there is “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing overly generous to Hunter Biden, there are good reasons for even them to embrace it in other contexts. Under the Biden Standard, editors would be encouraged to take out their blue pencils and mark unsubstantiated accusations with the simple and obvious acronym.
Jon Marshall is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He advocates an even-handed standard of proof that is strict by today’s usual practice. “I think for journalists to count something as ‘evidence,’ there needs to be a reliable, verifiable source of information,” he says. “Examples of what I would count as evidence include court documents, government studies or data, scientific reports, business records, and a reporter’s own investigations to name a few.”
To date, Donald Trump has not enjoyed the benefits of the Biden Standard. When the Christopher Steele “dossier” was made public, the media reaction was to believe it – or at least to entertain it – unless and until it was disproven. Instead of demanding evidence to prove the claims, reporters said the allegations were just as yet “unverified.”
Back in January 2017, when the dossier was new on the scene, NPR called it an “explosive — but unverified – document that alleges collusion between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump.” Under the Biden Standard it would have read that the dossier “alleges without evidence collusion. …”
When the Mueller report finally came out, the New York Times allowed “some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false.” And yet the Times was still not prepared to let go of the story of “Mr. Trump’s alleged dalliance with prostitutes” in Moscow, which the Times declared “neither proved nor disproved.” But of course, the “alleged dalliance” could have been proved, and easily: just produce the supposed tape. In the absence of the tape, the Biden Standard should apply. It’s simple: If there isn’t evidence, there isn’t evidence.
Marshall of the Medill School would set the bar even higher: When it comes to the Steele dossier, “I would not have published it, as some news outlets did,” he says, “unless a reliable source substantiated it.”
If it’s important to distinguish true from false allegations about Hunter Biden – and it is – then it is just as important to do so for Donald Trump. That means thinking seriously about what counts as evidence and how to test for counterfeit claims. Most important, it means applying those standards equally.
A case can be made for adopting the Trump Standard or the Biden Standard, but it’s hard to justify switching between the two in what can only be called a double standard.
The Democrats promised the public hearings into the impeachment of President Donald Trump would produce bombshells proving he should be removed from office. Thus far, they’ve failed, making it hard to take the whole thing seriously.
After weeks of closed-door hearings, allegations that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff coaches witnesses and multiple “key witnesses” trotted out before the cameras in the past few days, the best they seem to be able to come up with is “Heard it from a friend who… Heard it from a friend who… Heard it from another Trump’s been messin’ around.”
They sound like a bad REO Speedwagon cover band, not serious attesters to presidential malfeasance.
In fact, as numerous Republican critics of the process have pointed out, the whole thing stinks. The impeachment train has been warming up since January 20, 2017. The first story in The Washington Post on the possibility appeared online just about 20 minutes after he’d finished taking the oath of office. All the train needed was a destination and, with the allegation that the president withheld crucial military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption, it finally found one.
The problem, as is becoming clear for the Democrats, is the lack of proof there was ever a quid, let alone a pro quo. Which is probably why they’ve stopped talking about things in those terms and are instead throwing around words like “bribery,” saying “hearsay can be much better” than direct evidence and musing about whether the president exceeded his authority by firing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (spoiler alert: he didn’t). They’re adding to the sense of wrongdoing without offering, as of yet anyway, definitive proof it occurred because it’s more important, for political purposes, to make the president look guilty than to prove he is.
What we’re witnessing is the extension of politics by other—some might say illegitimate—means. Even if they cannot engineer his removal from office, the Democrats who lead the resistance have been working overtime for the entire length of his presidency to lessen his chances in 2020. They’re using official government resources in Washington and in the states to do opposition research, to blacken his reputation, to create narratives that will remain in the mind of the public and influence their vote the next time around. It’s unseemly—and one does not have to be a supporter of the president to admit that.
What Schiff has done up to this point reminds me of the old cooking shows my grandmother used to watch. They’d show the chef prepare some elaborate dish, put it in the oven and then—after cutting away to commercial—serve it up. The magic of TV made you overlook the fact there wasn’t enough time during the break for the dish to cook. What was served had already been prepared, just like what we’re seeing in the testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. The whole business has been baked in advance.
From Schiff’s committee, the investigation will move, at least according to the rules as we now understand them, to the House Judiciary Committee. There, the grounds for removing the president from office will be established and the actual articles of impeachment will be thrashed out. Hopefully, the institution of the presidency will be treated with more respect than Schiff is showing it, but that’s unlikely. The Democrats are on a mission and intend to see it through.
It’s unfortunate the current president is seen by so many Americans as unlikable. It makes it hard to see the line between his personal interests and the nation’s institutional—a division he has admittedly done much to blur all on his own. The precedents being set now by Schiff and company will give future congressional majorities a much bigger club to swing against the president and the presidency unless, as is all too often the case, the people who write about such things with a supposedly critical eye will allow for double-standards to rule the day.
We’ve seen it before. A cover-up without an underlying crime was still a crime when it involved Richard Nixon. When it involved Bill or Hillary Clinton, not such much—at least as far as the majority of the punditocracy was willing to state. The fact they liked they Clintons and didn’t like Nixon had a lot to do with it, just as what is going on now has so very much to do with how many of the media’s elite guard simply cannot stand Trump.