The mainstream media have largely ignored a Democratic Party trip to Puerto Rico this weekend, in the midst of a partial government shutdown that journalists are doing their best to describe as a tragedy for federal workers.
The only significant coverage or commentary has been in conservative media.
The trip to Puerto Rico includes 30 Democrats and “109 lobbyists and corporate executives,” according to the Washington Examiner. The participants are staying at an expensive hotel and have enjoyed a performance of Hamilton featuring its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
While the government shutdown drags on, dozens of Congressional Democrats are staying at $289/night hotel in Puerto Rico this weekend and watching $350/ticket showings of Hamilton. https://t.co/9dhcbqg0hR pic.twitter.com/dPe9TxfNmE
— Andrew Scurria (@AndrewScurria) January 11, 2019
The Examiner added that the Democrats will be attending several parties, including one with the Hamilton cast, and enjoying “free time for the members and their families on the trip.”
However, there has been very little coverage of the Democrats’ junket — even after a photograph emerged Saturday of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) standing shirtless on the beach.
Spotted: Sen. Bob Menendez on the beach at a resort in Puerto Rico on Day 22 of the partial government shutdown. Reports say dozens of Dems are in PR for the CHC BOLD PAC winter retreat — including meetings on Maria cleanup, and a party with PR’s “Hamilton” cast. pic.twitter.com/6FaBYKPo4L
— David McAlpine (@DavidMcAlpine) January 12, 2019
CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of Reliable Sources and a de facto editorial mouthpiece for the network’s executives, attacked conservatives on Sunday for objecting to media “sob stories” about the shutdown.
Yet CNN paid little attention to the Democrats’ trip.
The only recent articles at CNN.com about Puerto Rico as of Sunday afternoon were an op-ed arguing against diverting relief funds for Puerto Rico to build President Donald Trump’s border wall (which may happen if he declares an emergency), and an article previewing the Puerto Rico premiere of Hamilton.
On air Sunday, the network discussed Puerto Rico in the context of Hamilton and the funding issue — and also reported that Democrat presidential candidate Julian Castro, a former Obama administration official, will campaign there.
NBC News covered the Democrats’ visit to Puerto Rico in glowing terms, in an article titled, “Latino House Democrats to make show of new strength in Puerto Rico.”
The overwhelming majority of Latinos in Congress are Democrats and now that their party is in charge in the U.S. House, they want Puerto Rico’s recovery to be a priority.
To that end, more than 30 Democratic members of Congress — mostly members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, but other House members too — are gathering in Puerto Rico this weekend.
They are attending the annual winter retreat of Bold PAC, the CHC’s political and fundraising arm, in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan.
The story, by Suzanne Gamboa, mentioned the partial government shutdown — but presented the Democrats’ junket as an attempt to draw attention to the shutdown’s effects. NBC even described the vacationing Democrats as being “ready to respond as needed” to the shutdown:
The Bold PAC conference was scheduled for Puerto Rico months before the shutdown. Though the largest contingency of House Democrats to visit the island will be many miles from the Capitol, Cardenas said they’ll be keeping an eye on the shutdown politics and be ready to respond as needed. They’ll also be able to get a bird’s-eye view of how the shutdown is affecting the island that is trying to pull itself out of a financial crisis while recovering with the devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria.
CBS News followed in NBC’s wake, describing the Democrats’ trip as a fact-finding mission in an article by Camilo Montoya-Galvez titled: ‘It is more devastating than many of us realized’: Congressional delegation visits Puerto Rico.”
The article did not mention the shutdown, but did mention the possible diversion of funds from Puerto Rico.
CBS News’ flagship Sunday morning program, Face the Nation, mentioned the Puerto Rico trip — but only after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) brought it up, when asked when federal workers would be paid. “I’m not in Puerto Rico. I want to solve this problem,” McCarthy said.
Other outlets, other than Fox News, largely ignored the story — even though Trump referred to it in a tweet Saturday:
We have a massive Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their “vacations” and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2019
Vox.com, the so-called “explainer” website, mocked Trump: “Trump wants credit for staying at the White House over weekends while the shutdown drags on,” it reported, adding that Trump was to blame for the impasse.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.