The New York Times has admitted that journalists are biased against Donald Trump. However, according to Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg, it’s Trump’s fault.
The headline for Rutenberg’s article on the front page is: “Trump is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.” A more accurate alternative would be: “Trump Exposes Most Journalists for the Herd-Like Partisans They Really Are.”
If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?
Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.
The problem with this analysis is that while the opposition to Trump is more unified, and vociferous, than against any other Republican presidential candidate in recent memory (thanks in no small part to the ambivalence of Fox News), it is a difference in degree, not in kind.
In 2008 — to pick an arbitrary starting point — journalists swooned over the prospect of Barack Obama as the first black president, and coordinated to discuss attacks on Obama’s critics.
In one particularly noxious episode, a photographer working for the Atlantic photoshopped a cover image she had shot to cast McCain as a bloodthirsty monster.
In 2012, journalists plotted together to make Mitt Romney the target of Benghazi coverage, rather than Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — and CNN’s Candy Crowley infamously threw the second presidential debate to Obama.
They played along with spurious attacks on Romney’s record, such as his supposed responsibility for the death of a worker’s wife and the alleged mysteries in his tax returns. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid later admitted his charges about Romney’s tax returns were lies.)
It does not matter how moderate, politically correct, or docile the Republican candidate is. Journalists will demonize him (or, as in Sarah Palin’s case, her.)
Gutenberg acknowledges that Hillary Clinton deserves more scrutiny than she has received thus far in this election, especially as she avoids press conferences. But, he says, “the candidates do not produce news at the same rate.”
Is it the candidates’ role to produce the news? Who decides what is newsworthy?
Are Trump’s jokes at press conferences and rallies really “news”?
Rutenberg quotes Times editor Carolyn Ryan explaining that Trump expresses “warmth toward one of our most mischievous and menacing adversaries,” i.e. Russia.
Really? And what of Hillary Clinton’s “reset” with Russia? Or her approval of a deal that delivered 20% of U.S. uranium to a company controlled by the Russian government, after a timely donation to the Clinton Foundation?
And what of her support for the Iran deal, including the $400 million ransom paid for American hostages? Is that “warmth” somehow less deserving of coverage than the imaginary innuendo in Trump’s joke about Russia hacking her email server?
Why is Hillary Clinton’s refusal to address press conferences not the top of the news, every day?
It’s not the threat Trump supposedly poses to the world that has caused the media, in a spirit of patriotic self-sacrifice, to throw their purported standards aside.
It’s the threat that Trump poses to the media establishment itself, after surviving numerous efforts to bury his candidacy.
The truth is that the media own their own bias. Trump has merely drawn that bias more forcefully into the open.
“It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment,” Rutenberg writes.
Then do that job. And — unless you’re willing to admit you’re in the advocacy journalism business — apply equal standards to both candidates.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.