David R. Henderson  

Margaret Sullivan's Hilarious Piece on Trump

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How should the media cover the presidential candidates over the next five months?
So asks Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for the Washington Post, in a piece titled "Yes, the media should cover Trump fairly -- but even better, hold him accountable," Washington Post, June 5, 2016.

This is one of those rare instances where the headline is more accurate than the author's claim in the piece. Sullivan, as the opening line above suggests, claims to be discussing how the press should handle the presidential candidates. In fact, as the headline writer correctly discerned, virtually the whole piece is about how the media should handle Donald Trump.

Actually, I have no problem with what she says about pointing out his falsehoods. I would simply like to see them pointing out Hillary Clinton's falsehoods also. Sullivan gives a big tell, though, when she writes:

the slightest hint of a new angle on Hillary Clinton's email practices can occupy most of a news cycle.

Hmmm. The slightest hint? Like when the State Department inspector general's report shows that Clinton lied about what the ground rules for email were? The WaPost article that came out at the time dances around that, never pointing out that she clearly lied. I had to go to the FactCheck article to see that she did lie.

But, by all means, let's have accountability.

I have a sense--and here I would be happy to be proved wrong with evidence--that for Margaret Sullivan to say that Hillary Clinton lied, not just misspoke, but lied, would be close to impossible. It would be like an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show where Ted Baxter tries to say "I love you" to Georgette and it comes out as "I laa" If Sullivan were to try to say "Hillary Clinton lied," it would come out as "Hillary Clinton laa."

One other issue with Sullivan, although she is, unfortunately, not alone in this. She writes:

News outlets ought to rethink the purpose of their campaign coverage. It's not to be equally nice to all candidates. It's to provide Americans with the hard information they need to decide who is fit to lead the country.

It might come as a surprise to her, but we are not deciding "who is fit to lead the country." We are voting for someone who leads one of the three branches of the federal government.


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COMMENTS (12 to date)

Related to the phenomenon of overall bias in media, a whole nation can be slow to process evidence which seems apparent to outsiders. Two examples:

  1. The reported slowness of Japanese people to acknowledge what many outsiders see as atrocities during WWII.
  2. The slowness of Americans since September 11, 2001 to consider evidence that undermines the official account of what happened on that day. It took me until three months ago to watch this quite believable YouTube of academic evidence, or get this academically prepared book.

Steve Fritzinger writes:

I've also noticed a tendency for news outlets to run headlines saying Johnson is a legitimate substitute for Trump. Not once have I seen a paper or web site say Clinton voters should be looking at Johnson.

James Mulcahy writes:

In the fall of 2000, when Hillary was running for the senate from NY Sullivan was editor of the Buffalo News. At a Rotary luncheon where she was speaking, Sullivan was asked why Hillary was not held to the same level of scrutiny as her opponent. Sullivan's answer was that (brace yourself) "she is the First Lady!" No, she is a candidate. Any respect anyone in that room had for Sullivan dissipated with that comment.

Khodge writes:

I suspect that in the days of muckraking and yellow journalism that the press had the good sense not to run around pretending to be professional and unbiased.

David R. Henderson writes:

@James Mulcahy,
Wow! Great story. Thanks.

Rob writes:

Agree with you David.

I can't think of anything that Hillary or Bill could do that would get the press to call them out.

This probably contributes to some small portion of the support for Trump and Sanders, as some people might be sick of the bias.

Edogg writes:

"the slightest hint of a new angle on Hillary Clinton's email practices can occupy most of a news cycle."

Well, is this not completely true? This story has be alive for a year. Has anything about Trump been covered with the same volume?

Jay writes:

@Edogg

Many media outlets don't really cover it at depth (hence David needing to go to a fact-check site to get actual facts) so to say its been covered in earnest for that long isn't accurate. It's only been in the news for that long because there's an ACTUAL investigation ongoing, it's not like its just being brought up in conversation repeatedly. Had she apologized on day one and taken whatever charge/fine came with it, nobody would care about it a year later like this.

Trump himself never leaves the news good or bad which is largely a contributor to his success over other candidates thus far but nothing he's done comes closes (legal wise, arguably moral as well) as she has which is why nothing's really stuck so far.

Ricardo writes:

@Jay,

"Had she apologized on day one" -- I'm not so sure. It would be characterized as her saying "those rules don't apply to people like me."

LD Bottorff writes:

Conspiracy theory time: Many media outlets or owners, including conservative ones, have made huge contribution to the Clinton Foundation.
http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/05/clinton-foundation-donors-include-dozens-of-media-organizations-individuals-207228

Between NewsCorp Foundation and James Murdoch, over $1.5M has gone from Fox News to the Clintons. NewsMax Media has also contributed more than $1M. The Washington Post has contributed between $250 and $1000. Perhaps the Washington Post can't criticize Ms. Clinton because they haven't paid enough.

Jay writes:

@Ricardo

That would entirely depend on her apology, but as long as she acknowledged that she broke the rules or mishandling potentially sensitive data and didn't equivocate ("I'm sorry you think I broken rules") then I think the story would largely be forgotten as there wouldn't be anything left.

Stephen Dawson writes:

I love the forty year old cultural reference.

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