A bi­ased me­dia in ac­tion

Dou­ble stan­dards are re­vealed in cov­er­age of Trump ’16 ver­sus Obama ’08

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Kelly Rid­dell

If Don­ald Trump be­comes the next pres­i­dent of the United States he’ll be more thor­oughly vet­ted by the me­dia than Barack Obama. When the ju­nior sen­a­tor from Illi­nois be­came the first African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, his back­ground re­mained largely a blank slate, un­ex­plored by the press, who at the time were swoon­ing over the po­ten­tial of his pres­i­dency

Joseph McQuaid, pub­lisher of the New Hamp­shire Union Leader, wrote an ed­i­to­rial head­lined “Obama Orgy,” then CBS News an­chor Katie Couric spoke of the “Oba­mathon..the non­stop cov­er­age..[that] has stolen most of the lime­light from his op­po­nent,” and ev­ery­body re­mem­bers Chris Matthews’ “thrill go­ing up my leg” ref­er­ence to the now pres­i­dent).

So, Mr. Obama’s school records from kinder­garten to law school went unchecked and undis­cov­ered. The story of his fi­nan­cial sup­port grow­ing up in pri­vate schools, and then even­tu­ally Har­vard, un­known.

It was un­fash­ion­able to re­port on Mr. Obama’s 30-year his­tory as­so­ci­at­ing with ques­tion­able char­ac­ters start­ing with com­mu­nist Frank Marshall Davis, then with Pas­tor Jeremiah Wright and ter­ror­ists Bill Ay­ers and Ber­na­dine Dohrn. For the me­dia con­sid­ered it all to be ru­mor and in­nu­endo, per­pet­u­ated by the right to dis­credit the can­di­date. Con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

When Wash­ing­ton Post re­porter David Maraniss was asked why he didn’t bring up Mr. Davis in his 10,000 word fea­ture on Mr. Obama’s Hawai­ian child­hood, he told Ac­cu­racy in Me­dia he didn’t feel Mr. Davis war­ranted a men­tion, and that Mr. Obama’s own book was in­cor­rect in ded­i­cat­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role to Mr. Davis in men­tor­ing the now-pres­i­dent.

Yet, with Don­ald Trump noth­ing re­mains too sala­cious, con­spir­a­to­rial, or out-of-bounds for the press.

The most re­cent ex­am­ple is for­mer Miss Uni­verse Ali­cia Machado, who rep­re­sented Venezuela in Mr. Trump’s 1996 pageant, who has al­leged Mr. Trump called her “Miss House­keep­ing” and “Miss Piggy” when she gained weight af­ter win­ning the beauty con­test.

There is no video prov­ing these al­le­ga­tions, it’s all he-said, she-said, and hap­pened 20 years ago. But the press is treat­ing it like a block­buster — Ms. Machado has been pa­raded on CNN, MSNBC, and a Google News search of her name now pro­duces more than 2 mil­lion sto­ries.

Any and ev­ery source used to “factcheck” Mr. Trump is also used by the me­dia, no mat­ter how cred­itable it is.

Mr. Trump has re­peat­edly said he didn’t sup­port the 2003 Iraq War be­fore it be­gun, and has been hit with “Pants on Fire” sta­tus from all the fact-check­ers for be­ing a liar on this is­sue.

What’s their ev­i­dence? A Howard Stern in­ter­view in 2002 where Mr. Stern asked Mr. Trump: “Are you for in­vad­ing Iraq?” and he replied: “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done cor­rectly.”

That’s not ex­actly a whole­hearted en­dorse­ment for the in­va­sion of Iraq, but it’s be­ing used that way by the me­dia.

They’re also ped­dling a false-equiv­a­lency. Mr. Trump, when he made the com­ment, was a pri­vate cit­i­zen, who was not be­ing given clas­si­fied brief­ings. Hil­lary Clinton, on the other hand, was. Her job as a New York sen­a­tor was to be steeped in for­eign pol­icy. So for the me­dia to treat her vote for the war and Mr. Trump’s en­dorse­ment on Howard Stern as one in the same is in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­hon­est.

But that doesn’t de­ter the factcheck­ers — who are in­tent on dis­cred­it­ing Mr. Trump’s ev­ery word.

The New York Times, Los An­ge­les Times, Wash­ing­ton Post, and Politico all ran sto­ries within the last week de­scrib­ing Mr. Trump’s lies, false­hoods and in­nu­en­dos. There’s a no­tion within the main­stream me­dia that they’re not do­ing their jobs be­cause Mrs. Clinton isn’t run­ning away with the elec­tion. Clearly, their re­port­ing must be off — more fact-checks need to be made.

Since win­ning the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, Mr. Trump has been factchecked by Poli­ti­fact 135 times. Eightyeight of those fact-checks have given him ei­ther a “Pants on Fire” or “False” rat­ing. Mrs. Clinton, on the other time, has been fact-checked 48 times in the same pe­riod. Twenty-one of her com­ments were la­beled as “true,” with only three pants on fire rat­ings.

Does Mr. Trump lie more? Per­haps. But no one can ar­gue he’s not be­ing called out for it.

Then there’s just the vol­ume of cov­er­age — like Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump is re­ceiv­ing the lion’s share of it, ex­cept for one thing: The bulk of Mr. Trump’s cov­er­age is neg­a­tive, whereas the ma­jor­ity of Mr. Obama’s was pos­i­tive or neu­tral.

Af­ter Mr. Trump won the nom­i­na­tion, press cov­er­age turned sharply neg­a­tive, with 61 per­cent of the sto­ries gen­er­ated on him be­ing op­po­si­tional, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Har­vard Univer­sity study.

Com­par­a­tively, seventy-one per­cent of the cov­er­age of Mr. Obama dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign was pos­i­tive or neu­tral, with only 29 per­cent neg­a­tive, ac­cord­ing to a Pew Re­search Cen­ter study. The same study found six in 10 neg­a­tive news sto­ries for his op­po­nent, Ari­zona Sen. John Mc­Cain.

So yes, the press is do­ing every­thing it can to di­min­ish the prospect of a Trump pres­i­dency. And if they don’t suc­ceed, it won’t be be­cause the Amer­i­can peo­ple didn’t know whom they were vot­ing for. Kelly Rid­dell is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.


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