- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2016

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,” CBS News anchor Katie Couric spoke of the “Obamathon … the non-stop coverage … [that] has stolen most of the limelight from his opponent,” and everybody remembers Chris Matthews’ “thrill going up my leg” reference to the new 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 “fact-check” 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 fact-checkers — 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 fact-checked by Politifact 135 times. Eighty-eight 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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