Is it journalistic malpractice to quote each side of the argument and leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions?
Apparently to liberals — who are fretting Hillary Clinton could lose this presidential contest to Donald Trump — the answer is yes.
How could a man who tells lies, and promotes conspiracy theories, even still be competitive, they ask. Isn’t it obvious he’s a know-nothing buffoon?
Apparently not. So they’ve turned against the one institution that’s always been on their side: The media. The press obviously is failing, they argue, because it isn’t convincing the American public that Mr. Trump is, indeed, Lucifer.
Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote the media shouldn’t be treating Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump the same — that there’s a so-called “false-equivalence.”
One you see, is a reasonable, but flawed politician. The other is a monster who will take down the Republic.
“Clearly, Clinton shades the truth — yet there’s no comparison with Trump,” he writes, arguing, the press should be clearer in its reporting that Mr. Trump, is indeed, a “clown” and a “crackpot.”
Richard Cohen, perhaps heeding Mr. Kristof’s advice, wrote a column this week in The Washington Post that compared Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler. (A simple Lexis-Nexis search found 406 articles have appeared in the Post with the search terms “Trump” and “Hitler” since June 2015.)
For good measure, the paper, two days later, ran an editorial about Mr. Trump’s campaign dubbed: “This is how fascism comes to America.”
Still, liberal writer Paul Krugman, in The New York Times, thinks the media is objectively pro-Trump.
“It’s not even false equivalence: compare the amount of attention given to the Clinton Foundation despite absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, and attention given to Trump Foundation, which engaged in more or less open bribery — but barely made a dent in news coverage,” he lamented.
E.J. Dionne at the Post agreed.
“Coverage of Donald Trump has become the occasion for a new crisis of credibility,” he wrote. “Liberals insist further that Trump is being held to a much lower standard than is Hillary Clinton, which, in turn, means that while relatively short shrift is given to each new Trump scandal, the same old Clinton scandals get covered again and again.”
Perhaps there’s something to those “old Clinton scandals,” that the public finds alarming (a quarter century of repeated secrecy and dishonesty in public office), but Mr. Dionne doesn’t explore that possibility.
These liberal columnists also don’t touch upon the water-carrying the press has done for Mrs. Clinton throughout her campaign. They rooted for her against Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders — who could barely get coverage at his early events despite pulling in thousands of people — and played down the division between his supporters and the Democratic Party.
After Mrs. Clinton gave a speech calling half of Mr. Trump’s supporters a basket of deplorables, the press jumped at the opportunity to explore just how racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and nativist they — and Mr. Trump — are.
“Yes, Most Donald Trump supporters are deplorable and irredeemable,” wrote New York Magazine. The Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight blog backed up the assertion with polling data.
The media’s also been there to push crazy liberal-conspiracy theories, and to shoot down reasonable Republican ones.
For example, a Bloomberg News reporter asked Mrs. Clinton this week if she thought Russia was somehow linked to the bombing threats in New York and New Jersey, in an effort to sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. Highly speculative, to say the least.
Yet, the media argues (repeatedly) it’s absurd to think Mrs. Clinton set up her private-email server for anything but convenience, that her State Department’s lies on Benghazi were a series of blameless errors, and that her health scare could be anything more than pneumonia. Pay for play with the Clinton Foundation and State Department? Just a series coincidences. They need hard evidence to be convinced.
The other factor at play — something that Mr. Trump’s supporters seem to understand, but the press and its fact-checkers simply don’t get — is that Mr. Trump deals in hyperbole.
Did thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheer after Sept. 11, 2001? Nope. But they were applauding in other parts of the world, an inconvenient truth that Mr. Trump is unafraid to take on. To some, conditioned to the incessant drone of political correctness, Mr. Trump’s comments seem refreshingly honest, no matter how many Pinocchio’s he receives by the media.
And, then, when you compare his mistruths to Mrs. Clinton’s, well they seem tame in comparison. Her lies are calculated to protect her, her power, her political future, and prestige. They benefit no one but herself. She embodies the corrupt status quo, he’s promising change, albeit in an exaggerated measure.
These are the differences between the candidates that the American public is honing in on, and the ones the press has failed to see — just like they missed Mr. Trump’s groundswell rise to the Republican nomination.
Perhaps the media should stop preaching from their podiums, and actually start seeing the world through other people’s eyes — however imperfect they consider those eyes to be. For that’s the first step in understanding, and it’s been the press’s biggest failure this election cycle.
• Kelly Riddell is a columnist for The Washington Times.