A couple weeks ago, the last living legend in journalism, Bob Woodward — the man who took down a corrupt president and for the last forty years has remained at the top of his profession — made the biggest mistake of his career.
Woodward was caught red-handed using his own exhaustive reporting to expose President Obama as a liar for trying to tie ownership of sequester to the tail of congressional Republicans. Afterwards, based on his own opinion, Woodward was then busted for saying he was uncomfortable with a top White House official telling him he would “regret” reporting that Obama had moved the negotiating goal posts with respect to sequester tax increases.
Unlike so many others in his profession, Woodward wasn’t caught lying or manufacturing facts. Nothing even close to that. His sin was only daring to step off the Narrative Plantation at the expense of President Obama. And for that sin, the recriminations from his so-called colleagues came fast and furious.
In other words, the media-collective was all geared up to deliver Obama a major sequester victory before Woodward came along and rained a bunch of facts down on their parade. And now, as payback, they are raining hell down on him with derision and ridicule that has lasted straight through to today. Throughout the Web, Woodward is now getting hammered via Slate (an outlet owned by his employer, The Washington Post) over his reporting in “Wired,” a 1984 biography of the late John Belushi.
What’s notable is that all of this is occurring in a media environment in whicg Eliot Spitzer is given two primetime cable news shows, Al Sharpton is an NBC News star, Dave Weigel has his own Slate blog, Ezra Klein’s (of journList fame) and Ben Smith’s stars are ever on the rise, Dan Rather is treated as an elder statesman, Brian Ross remains an ABC big shot, and the Internet’s number-one smear-merchant, Andrew Sullivan, is treated like the media’s favorite uncle.
For those of you who don’t know, Sullivan spent years manufacturing a vicious conspiracy around the parentage of Trig Palin, Governor Sarah Palin’s youngest son. Currently, Sullivan is spreading smears about Pope Benedict and the Catholic Cardinals. Neither of these smears is based on anything approaching a journalistic standard. And yet, the media not only helps to aggregate these partisan smear campaigns; they treat Sullivan with respect and deference.
Earlier this year, after Sullivan was dumped by the Daily Beast, everyone from the New York Times to Politico to NPR came to his rescue with the affection and attention needed to ensure his new venture would be a success. All this for a man who launched a nasty “birther” style conspiracy against a Down Syndrome child and his mother.
Can you imagine the same media doing anything close to the same for someone who put a tenth as much effort into questioning Obama’s birthplace or the parentage of one of Obama’s daughters?
It’s a revealing and very troubling fact that, even though Sullivan’s unfounded rumor-mongering and character assassination passes nothing close to a journalistic standard and goes a long way towards defining his online identity, the media still embrace him. And we all know why. Because Sullivan is savvy enough to engage in the “correct” kind of unfounded rumor-mongering and character assassination.
You see, although Andrew Sullivan violates every rule of ethical journalism, the media still love and promote him, because he targets the “right” people. That was true with Palin and it’s true today.
Since going independent, Sullivan’s latest unfounded smear campaign is aimed directly at the Catholic Church. Without any evidence, he has accused the Holy Father of having a secret homosexual relationship. Later, Sullivan upped the ante by claiming “many” of the Catholic Cardinals are gay.
Other than a few media tsk-tsks, though, over the years, Sullivan has paid zero price for any of this behavior. In fact, these deliberate smear campaigns have likely helped to up his media profile and endear him to a left-wing media that secretly loves this behavior. How else to explain why there has been no pushback, no admonitions, no warnings from his peers about what this kind of “reporting” can do to one’s career and credibility.
But who is having his career relentlessly undermined right now? Bob Woodward, for doing nothing more than reporting the truth and his opinion.
So, as you can see, the message from the media is abundantly clear: You can hurl all the unfounded claims and filth at the right without ever having to fear any kind of recrimination from your “journalist” peers. But should you report a truth about Barack Obama that derails his political goals, your peers will relentlessly destroy you and your legacy — even if it means going all the way back to 1984.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC