The American press corps has been on a tear over the past year about the death of democracy. They share the talking point with Democrats. In the run up to and aftermath of January 6, pretty much every news outlet has lamented Republican lies, disinformation, misinformation, and an assault on democracy.
What the press refuses to acknowledge is their complicity in that death. When anyone suggests it, the press gets defensive and demands a naming of names. The press views itself as above the fray and while individual reporters may play a role, collectively the press thinks itself as the champion of democracy and freedom. Unfortunately, the press corps’s collective elitism and both lack of self-awareness and lack of self-reflection is dragging our republic into the grave.
Consider two very recent incidents. In the first, Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio set off a firestorm by reporting that Chief Justice John Roberts asked members of the Supreme Court to wear face masks due to Justice Sotomayor’s health. Totenberg reported Justice Gorsuch refused. Gorsuch sits next to Sotomayor on the Court.
Ruth Marcus, Editor of the Washington Post editorial page and a serial Cassandra about the state of American democracy used Totenberg’s reporting to amplify her own criticisms of Justice Gorsuch maskless at a recent hearing. Marcus failed to note other Justices took off their masks during the hearing to ask questions. Justice Sotomayor participated by phone.
CNBC and MSNBC both ran stories about Totenberg’s report. “When something like this bleeds over, and this reporting from Nina Totenberg is just replete with different instances of discord on the Court, that tells you what’s going on in reality is probably a whole lot worse,” Joyce Vance commented on MSNBC about Gorsuch. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes repeated the story as did other MSNBC employees including Mehdi Hassan, Kyle Griffin, and Joy Reid.
USA Today, Business Insider, Yahoo News, and New York magazine all ran with Totenberg’s story. The Daily Beast, Newsweek, Al Jazeera, and other outlets did too. CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Ed Lavendera circulated the story. Politico’s Jonathan Lemire did too. NPR’s David Gura backed up his colleague Nina Totenberg. Jemele Hill at the Atlantic; Jamelle Bouie at the New York Times; Eddie Glaude, a serial television talking head; Elie Mystal, the “justice” correspondence for The Nation, and others all weighed in.
Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, CNN’s “media reporters” sent out a newsletter writing, “NPR’s incredibly well-sourced Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg published a scoop on Tuesday” and described it. They noted “Fox’s Shannon Bream cited her own source and disputed NPR’s story. In essence, Bream was absolving Gorsuch.” They then added “the NPR audience comes away believing one thing and the Fox audience comes away believing the opposite.” They helpfully added “CNN’s Ariane de Vogue, meantime, matched key parts of NPR’s reporting.”
Less than twenty-four hours later, Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch released a a rare joint statement calling the report false. But reporters, including David Gura of NPR, claimed their statement was a non-denial denial. Other reporters refused to acknowledge Totenberg had gotten it wrong. Some tried to parse the Sotomayor and Gorsuch statement to note Totenberg had referenced the Chief Justice, but Sotomayor and Gorsuch merely said Sotomayor did not request Gorsuch wear a mask.
Later that day, Chief Justice Roberts himself said Totenberg’s story was false. Many of the very same reporters and pundits referenced above have failed to retract their statements. NPR stands by Totenberg’s report.
The second story happened a few hours after John Roberts’ statement. President Biden held a press conference and claimed if his electoral reforms did not pass Congress he could not guarantee the upcoming November election would be legitimate. Much of the press corps that has screamed about the Republicans’ “stolen election” nonsense have either been quiet or given license to Biden’s claims. MSNBC is already a hotbed of “end of democracy” nonsense.
An Edelman survey of 30,000 people shows trust in the media has cratered more than any other institution. Too few in the press are willing to be self-reflective on that. In so doing, they are complicit in democracy’s death.
By the way, I must credit Drew Holden, but for whom I’d have had a difficult time writing this. His thread on this is amazing.
The Filibuster Lives
The Democrats were hot garbage in the Senate last night. They failed to kill the filibuster. I personally think that the moment the GOP takes back the Senate they need to rush to kill the filibuster.
Mind you, I don’t want the filibuster to die. I just think the GOP needs to bring it up and watch these very same Democrats scramble to save it. Just rub their noses in this for a laugh. I’m actually really serious about this.
As for Schumer, there is no viagra for a spine. He has rendered himself largely impotent; he has tied up the Senate for two weeks on an issue he knew would die; and most importantly, he has now forced several vulnerable Senators to out themselves as filibuster killers, something the GOP will attack them for.
Frankly, Schumer put these vulnerable senators in an extremist position in order to avoid primaries and now they’ll probably get defeated in general elections. What a waste, but hilarious to watch.
As noted above, Biden is already out saying the election in 2022 might not be legitimate and much of the press is silent. However, several of his Democratic senators were confronted with his statement and disputed it.
Likewise, Biden has now signaled Russia can invade Ukraine. His lame statement about minor incursions will be taken as a license to invade by Putin. The word choice was a disaster.
Additionally, Biden said he did not know what the GOP stood for. That is going to give the GOP an ad campaign in the general election. They’ll replay Biden’s clip over and over and say they’re for education, parents, children, jobs, the economy, the supply chain, law enforcement, etc.
Finally, Biden said he had no regrets at all about the way he fled Afghanistan. That too will open him to attacks. The public still is angry about Biden’s handling of Afghanistan. The GOP ad writes itself. “Joe Biden says he has no regrets about how we fled Afghanistan. Tell that to the families of the dead soldiers and the Americans we left behind.”
Doubling down on dementia is not a winning strategy for 2022, but it is the one Prime Minister Klain has chosen. Today is the anniversary of Joe Biden becoming President and also the day Republicans are suddenly in the drivers seat for the midterms.