Poor Donald Trump is, in Barack Obama's words, "whining" about a big conspiracy out to get him--and the allegedly pro-Clinton mainstream media, of course, is at the center of the plot. Wild talk from wild man Donald? Nope. It's S.O.P. for the GOP.
At last night's debate, Trump made sure to play his version of the Republican golden oldie that the MSM is "so corrupt" and it "poisons the minds of voters." The party's mantra is that the "biased liberal media" are Hillary Clinton's lapdogs in the presidential election.
Hatred of the news media is practically a plank in the Republic platform. Even before Trump used the press pen as piñatas at his rallies, reporters who attended Republican events often ran into nasty remarks and curses from attendees. (And I say this as a moderate who has voted for both parties.)
During the Republican convention in Cleveland, vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence told the crowd that Hillary Clinton will "have the press doing half her work for her." Newt Gingrich took the podium to decry the "lies of the news media." And at Trump rallies, the crowds chant at the press corps: "Tell the truth, tell the truth." Which is whatever Trump says it is.
Trouble is, their complaints have as much validity as Trump's assertion that he saw thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating on 9/11, which Politifact found to be baseless.
Are the media supposed to ignore the outrageous and patently false things Trump says--whoppers that even many Republicans dispute?
Journalists would not be doing their jobs if they let Trump get away with this stuff. But when they do call him on yet another fable or air his latest female accuser's charges, some Republicans are sure to wail that the lefty media are showing their pro-Hillary sentiments and their loathing of conservatives.
Suppose you are doing 95 mph in the 35 mph zone, and a traffic cop pulls you over. Does the cop make the stop because he hates you? Or because he is doing his duty?
What's clear is that media bashing brings two benefits to Republicans: 1) It is a sure-fire way to fire up the party's base, creating a straw man to portray as a common enemy, and 2) it provides cover for when a GOP candidate lands in trouble--simply deflect attention from his misadventures by complaining about media bias.
On the right, references of liberal bias are often tossed off with glib certainty, on the order of water is wet. Take this aside from Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel, in a June 10 piece about Trump and Clinton: "The mainstream media are in the tank for her, and their airtime will be devoted to skewering him."
While I think very highly of Strassel, this struck me as all-too-typical. Journalists usually shrug off this stuff, but I decided to ask her how she knew this to be true. When I emailed her about her characterization of the Clinton-media relationship, Strassel wrote back citing this passage from a June 7 New York Times story about Clinton's clinching the Democratic nomination: "And Mrs. Clinton's very durability -- her tenacity, grit and capacity for enduring and overcoming adversity -- could be exactly what is required to defeat Donald J. Trump."
OK, so the Times reporter who wrote the June 7 piece, Amy Chozick, cited three positive qualities about Clinton. Trouble is, Chozick also listed the candidate's negatives: Clinton lacks President Obama's oratorical skills and her own husband's campaigning prowess, plus all the money she took in speaking fees from Wall Street and her status as an insider running in an outsider's year.
Ignoring inconvenient facts is standard behavior for media bashers. I also noted in my response to Strassel that it was the Times that broke the story about Clinton's private server in March 2015. If the paper is the Democratic candidate's ally, then why did it do that? And why did Clinton refuse to hold a press conference in more than half a year if she is so beloved by journalists?
A piece on the website of the anti-journalism group, Media Research Center, tries to show there is a chumminess between reporters and Democratic politicians. Using emails unearthed by WikiLeaks, it succeeds only in showing that their dealings are often polite. Guess what? So are the dealings between the media and Republican pols.
Then, as further evidence of supposed media-Dem coziness, the article goes on to recount how NBC gave a job to Chelsea Clinton. Tellingly, it omits the fact that the network also hired Georges W.'s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, for an on-air job.
But to Republican media-haters, the truth about journalists is beside the point.