Every occupation has blind spots. Doctors sometimes make the worst patients. Teachers can be the worst students. Lawyers might make the worst clients. And many journalists – who are supposed to hold people accountable – don’t like being held accountable by others.
Luckily, if folks in my line of work are ever at a loss to understand what we’re doing wrong, Donald Trump will gladly point it out. The president-elect tweets often about what he calls the “dishonest media.”
In a recent example, after Meryl Streep blasted Trump at the Golden Globes for allegedly mocking a physically disabled reporter during the campaign, the billionaire tweeted that he never did any such thing and blamed the misunderstanding on a “very dishonest media.”
I’ll bet many journalists are tired of Trump using them as a punching bag. But the truth is, the Fourth Estate deserves to be roughed up a bit.
For one thing, with all this sudden concern about “fake news,” there is a clear double standard in how we cover real news. The media is getting all worked up at the moment over Trump naming his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior White House adviser.
But I don’t remember many in the media raising a fuss in the 1990s when Bill Clinton created an office in the West Wing for his wife, Hillary, to occupy while trying to reform the nation’s health care system.
In an attempt to tweak Trump over his Cabinet selections, some Democrats insist that nominees should have substantial experience in matters dealt with by that department.
Great idea. But why isn’t anyone in media pointing out that, if this rule were in effect when Barack Obama took office, he wouldn’t have been able to nominate Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services because the Kansas governor hadn’t studied medicine? Or Hilda Solis as labor secretary since the former congresswoman had never been a labor organizer. Or Anthony Foxx to be transportation secretary because the former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, had never run a railroad, highway or airport.
During the campaign, the media was hardly an honest broker when it came to, for instance, defending Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Time and again, many reporters, anchors and commentators accepted at face value whatever spin the Clinton campaign offered about the scandal.
Meanwhile, thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that Democratic strategist Donna Brazile – then a CNN contributor – saw nothing wrong with leaking a debate question to the Clinton campaign to help it torpedo the insurgent candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The collusion between the Clinton camp and the media actually started before Clinton announced that she was running for president. Again, thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that, in April 2015, several dozen hand-picked reporters, anchors and commentators who were expected to cover the campaign gathered for off-the-record schmooze fests at the Washington home of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and the New York home of Joel Benenson, the chief campaign strategist for Clinton.
On the guest lists: John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times – who played political consultant and observed in an email to Podesta that “the opposition party” had gone “off the rails”; Maggie Haberman, then a reporter for Politico and now at the New York Times, who seems to have had a reputation with the Clinton camp as being a dependable conduit for spin, so much so that a campaign operative at one point expressed confidence that they could “do the most shaping by going to Maggie”; and Glenn Thrush, who was then a reporter for Politico and is now at the Times, who during the campaign sent Podesta a chunk of an article he was writing beforehand, gushed that he was so eager to accommodate the Clinton camp that he had “become a hack,” and told Podesta, “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this.”
OK, Glenn. Your secret is safe with us.
How could so many journalists become the story – and then miss the story? For example, Haberman – who is still allowed to write articles about the Trump transition – doesn’t seem to grasp the irony of the Times demanding that its post-election meeting with Trump be on the record when her dinner with Podesta was off the record.
Now I read that reporters are worried about the challenge of having to cover Trump, since the president-elect lies so often and so effortlessly.
Oh, yes. If there is one thing that the media can’t abide, it’s dishonesty.
Ruben Navarrette Jr., formerly of Sanger, is a columnist for the Washington Post. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.