Now it’s the Democrats’ turn to be mad at the media.
And a moment of truth for journalists who have achieved fame and sometimes fortune during a state of virtual war against Donald Trump.
I’ve been saying since the election that the country will be watching as the mainstream press, which openly allied itself with the Resistance, adjusts to the reality of a Democratic administration.
And there have been some encouraging signs that journalists don’t just plan to roll over for President Biden.
When Biden took no action against the Saudi crown prince for ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. intelligence, he got more than just criticism from major news outlets and commentators. He drew moral condemnation for the first time in his brief tenure. Whether it was the editorial page of the Washington Post (where Khashoggi was a contributor) or New York Times or CNN’s Jake Tapper, Biden was accused of giving a pass to the mastermind of a brutal murder. While the administration said it was “recalibrating” its relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of the evidence against Mohammed bin Salman, that hardly satisfied the media detractors.
When a former top aide to Andrew Cuomo accused him of sexual harassment, much of the media did their best to look away. There was no coverage on the network evening newscasts, four sentences on the “Today” show, one 39-second item on CNN and brief news summaries on MSNBC.
But the Times aggressively pursued the story involving its Democratic home-state governor. The first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, wouldn’t talk to reporters, but Times Albany correspondent Jesse McKinley interviewed a former executive assistant, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, who said Cuomo last spring asked her whether she’d ever had sex with an older man and made clear he wanted to sleep with her. Bennett also complained to two senior state officials.
That story, over the weekend, boosted the controversy to the point that Cuomo dropped his bland statements and apologized for his insensitive behavior. He also twice backed off proposals for a not-so-independent investigation and agreed the state attorney general should take charge.
With even some Democrats urging impeachment or resignation, the networks yesterday started to devote more airtime to the story. Playing down a scandal in its early stages rarely works, because other players and new evidence eventually force you to play catchup. And it should be noted that a Times investigation of a prostitute scandal led to the resignation of a previous Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer.
Perhaps the most telling incident involves a Washington Post reporter doing something utterly routine—and getting castigated by liberals for damaging a Biden nominee.
Seung Min Kim was covering Neera Tanden, the president’s pick for OMB, and the controversy over her harsh tweets that threatens to sink her. Kim asked Lisa Murkowski, perhaps the only senator who can save her, about a Tanden tweet blasting the Alaskan (“high on her own supply”). Murkowski said she hadn’t seen it, so Kim showed her a printout and got her comments.
I’ve done versions of this dozens of times, showing politicians a letter or document they hadn’t seen so they could respond for a story. It’s called reporting. No one cared when reporters tried to show or read Trump tweets to Republican lawmakers, who often just kept walking.
But Kim was bombarded on social media by people calling her a snitch and far worse, some using slurs against Asian-Americans. The Post issued a statement defending her against the “hateful” attacks.
Kim tweeted: “Reporters did not make Neera Tanden’s tweets an issue. Senators did, with their bipartisan opposition.”
It was so “enthralling” for journalists to be hailed for their anti-Trump stories, writes Times columnist Maureen Dowd, that “liberals had to relearn the lesson that reporters don’t — or shouldn’t — suit up for the blue team.”
Dowd went on: “For the left, over the past four years, a reporter has been an ally and a superhero comrade in the epic mission of destroying Donald Trump. Liberals lionized any cable hosts and runaway Republicans who blasted Trump…
“Let’s be honest. It’s a lot more pleasant to be hailed by the left than demonized, as you are during periods when you’re holding a Democratic president to account, because the left can be just as nasty as the right.”
None of this should discourage journalists from aggressively pursuing stories that cast Democrats in an unfavorable light, something they had no hesitation in doing when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress. And if they look the other way, as many initially did on the Cuomo mess, they deserve to be called out.