The “liberal” media vs. Hillary Clinton

Great piece from Brian Beutler on what to make of all the media’s attacks on Hillary as of late:

By the end of last week, high-profile liberals and members of the political press corps were battling one another in a state of mutual incomprehension.

Many liberals believe that reporters, lead by standard-bearers at The New York Times, have fallen short recently of their institutional duty to accurately inform the public about the candidates and stakes of this election; reporters, along with many of Hillary Clinton’s progressive critics, have responded that liberals are attempting to shield her from their scrutinizing eyes for partisan reasons…

For liberals, last week was faith-shaking. Major outlets saturated the news environment with innuendo-heavy reports, creating an aroma of malfeasance around Clinton unsupported by their actual findings… [emphases mine]

Over the same stretch, Trump benefitted from comparable indifference to his more fully documented ethical failures, and from what members of this self-same press corps describe as “rock-bottom expectations.” Viewed as a snapshot, it reminded Krugman and others of the blinkered reportage that helped George W. Bush become president 15 years ago…

Krugman’s concern, and that of other liberals, isn’t to preemptively discredit all scrutiny of Clinton; as Greenwald acknowledges, Krugman specifically says it’s “right and appropriate” to investigate the Clinton Foundation. Rather, it is with how to present findings in ways that are both accurate and proportional when viewed in their partisan contexts…

We know reporters, editors and producers are able to make consistent judgements about proportionality, because they do it all the time in other arenas…

What alarmed liberals last week is that, amid a feeding frenzy over newly released Clinton emails, the political press didn’t bother to apply any kind of analogous judgment. The same week that the Times and Post were “raising questions” about Clinton—questions with simple answers like “no evidence of corruption”—Trump, among other things, gave one of his most extreme immigration speeches yet, in which he detailed his plan for an “ideological certification” for immigrants.

This is not unlike leading a newscast with a weather report, or a story about firefighters pulling a kitten out of a tree, in the midst of an ongoing national emergency…

Last week, a casual news consumer wouldn’t have come away thinking Clinton’s and Trump’s sins were equivalent; they would have instead learned that Clinton’s sins were real and Trump’s trivial or non-existent. 

For instance: Only this week has the media rediscovered the fact that Trump donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi days before she dropped her office’s investigation into Trump’s fraudulent real estate “university.” The Clinton Foundation story is ripe with quids, but the quos, such as they are, generally amount to the continuation of some status quo ante…

The contrast underlines the proportionality problem exquisitely. Last week’s liberal outcry was less about circling wagons around Clinton per se than about preventing the disparity in coverage that prevailed last week from becoming a trend.

Presumably the media will actually get it’s act in gear and give this Trump U business half the scrutiny they have given to Hillary Clinton’s emails.  But based on recent performance there’s a legitimate fear that they have become so inured to the quotidian awfulness of Trump that short of any blatantly racist statements, etc., he’s going to get far more of a pass than he deserves.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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