Bloomberg News Shows Bias Day After Owner Enters Race: ‘Trump’s Brand of Racial Tribalism Can’t Compete’

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg fills out paperwork, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., to appear on the ballot in Arkansas' March 3 presidential primary. Bloomberg hasn't formally announced a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but his trip to Arkansas is …
Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP

One day after billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced he is running for president, the news organization in which he holds a controlling interest announced that it will not investigate Bloomberg or any of his Democratic rivals for president, but will continue to investigate President Trump.

It also simultaneously published a blisteringly partisan attack on President Trump in its opinion section.

Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait announced the unusual new editorial policy on Sunday, as CNBC reported:

With Mike Bloomberg officially entering the 2020 Democratic presidential race, Bloomberg News will refrain from investigating him and his Democratic rivals, according to a memo sent to editorial and research staff obtained by CNBC.

“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation ) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries. We cannot treat Mike’s democratic competitors differently from him,” Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said in the memo, which was confirmed by a spokesperson.

Mike Bloomberg is founder and 89% shareholder in Bloomberg LP, a financial software company that owns Bloomberg News

While the billionaire former New York mayor is running for president, Bloomberg News will publish or summarize investigative work into Bloomberg and the other Democratic candidates if made by “credible journalistic institutions,” said Micklethwait.

While Bloomberg News will not conduct investigations into Bloomberg or any of his Democratic rivals, it will continue to go after President Trump.

“For the moment, our P&I team will continue to investigate the Trump administration, as the government of the day,” CNBC reported Micklethwait wrote in that internal Bloomberg News memo.

Bloomberg News Editorials, published in the Bloomberg Opinion section of Bloomberg.com, which until Sunday were supervised by a board comprised of several Bloomberg News editors, some of whom have now joined the Bloomberg campaign, will now be left to Bloomberg News columnists who are no longer under the supervision of the board, which has been temporarily suspended.

One such Bloomberg News columnist, Francis Wilkinson, took full advantage of the company’s new editorial policy with a virulently anti-Trump screed published in the Bloomberg Opinion section of Bloomberg.com on Sunday.

In an article titled “This White Wisconsin County Has No Time for Trump: In Dane County, prosperity sustains liberal politics and subdues racial tribalism,” Wilkinson wrote :

(Bloomberg Opinion) — White voters were the key to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory. Their continued support for him is the main reason he is unlikely to be removed from office by impeachment. They are the foundation of his political support heading into 2020. Unless, of course, they live in Dane County, Wisconsin.

Nationally, Trump won 54 percent of the white vote in 2016, according to an analysis by Pew Research Center. The more racially diverse corners of the U.S. recoiled from his candidacy. But whites constituted three-fourths of the 2016 electorate, and enough of them were strategically placed in upper Midwest states to power Trump’s victory in the Electoral College.

Dane County does not buy what Trump sells. About four in five residents of the county, which includes the state capital of Madison, are non-Hispanic white. Nationally, according to the U.S. Census, about 60 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white. The electorate in Dane is generally even whiter than the county’s general population. Yet in 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in Dane County by a margin of three to one.

Political distinctions among white voters are well established. Women are less supportive of Trump than men, youth less supportive than oldsters, seculars less supportive than evangelicals, urbanites less supportive than farmers, college graduates less supportive than the high-school-educated. Dane features the kind of demographic markers — other than race — that are associated with support for Democrats.

“Democrats won the county’s presidential vote by a margin of roughly 20,000 votes in 1984, 50,000 votes in 1996, 90,000 votes in 2004 and almost 150,000 votes in 2016,” Wilkinson continued.

Dane County’s prosperity appears to drive both Democratic votes — despite Democratic support for higher taxes on the affluent — and rural conservative resentment. University of Wisconsin political scientist Katherine Cramer spent years meeting with small groups of residents in rural Wisconsin. Her book, “The Politics of Resentment,” is a sympathetic analysis of the myriad grudges these rural citizens hold against Wisconsin’s largest cites, Madison and Milwaukee, even though the people in those cities seem to have little in common beyond density and Democratic inclinations. The median household income in Milwaukee, which is almost two-thirds nonwhite, is more than $21,000 lower than in Madison.

Kramer’s book explores the distinct, mostly white, “rural consciousness” that propelled Republican Scott Walker’s three gubernatorial election victories and, after the book was published, Trump’s presidential win in the state. But there seems to be a political consciousness among white Wisconsinites who dwell in higher-density locales, as well. The affluent suburbs outside Milwaukee, like others around the country, are trending less Republican. Meanwhile, Madison’s liberalism seems to be radiating outward.

“Trump’s politics of resentment is double-barreled — aimed against nonwhites on one hand and against culturally and politically liberal whites on the other,” Wilkinson concluded:

To sustain it, Republicans must sustain white rural America, a task for which Trump’s chaotic trade war and plutocratic policies are ill-suited. He has done little to reverse the economic forces that draw the most adventurous children of conservative rural voters into the high-density, more liberal, political cultures of cities and suburbs.

Madison is a famed liberal outlier. But it’s also a model of sorts. It shows the power of a liberal political culture that’s underwritten by high levels of education and economic growth — even if it’s not racially diverse. Trump’s brand of racial tribalism can’t compete there. (emphasis added)

Though Wilkinson’s attack on President Trump contains this disclaimer, “This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners,” it is hard to see the article as anything other than a purely partisan, Bloomberg News-supported campaign message in support of the boss, presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

Other media outlets on both the left and the right were quick to note the very bad precedent set by this new Bloomberg News policy.

Rolling Stone blasted Bloomberg News with this editorial on Monday:

Bloomberg News suffered a major disruption over the weekend. The episode predicts the future of the news business, and the death of the news business.

After billionaire and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg formally entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday, Bloomberg agency Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait circulated a memo to editorial and research staff. In it, Micklethwait told staff it would not “investigate” either his owner and boss, or any of his boss’s Democratic opponents:

We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries. We cannot treat Mike’s democratic competitors differently from him.

If Mike Bloomberg had any respect for the news business he would encourage his editorial staff to kick him in the balls at every opportunity. Either that, or he would sell his media business. Or not run for president.

Characteristically, he picked the one path that is most contemptible and destructive, retaining ownership of one of the world’s biggest news outlets just to defang it for the duration of his (incidentally moronic) presidential run. It’s an awesomely selfish act that shows his contempt for the whole idea of journalism.

The Wall Street Journal was no less unsparing in this editorial on Monday:

Conservatives often suspect—and not without reason—that many large media outlets are biased against their favorite political candidates. But now at least one media empire is explicitly promising a double standard in its coverage of the presidential primary campaign. Until the Democrats settle on a nominee, only one 2020 contender will be subject to the news organization’s most rigorous scrutiny. Readers can probably guess his name.

Bloomberg’s campaign for president is based, in part, on a strategy that rejects the premise that the path to the Democratic nomination must run through the caucuses in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire. It is apparent now that another element of that strategy is a rejection of the premise that voters will hold a candidate for president accountable for using a major media outlet he owns to advance his own candidacy.

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