June 8, 2015

CBS' John Dickerson regularly filled in for former Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer before he retired, so I had no great hopes for him doing any better job than his predecessor once their network announced Schieffer's replacement. He managed to meet those low expectations right out of the box in his first week on the job during his interview with New Jersey Governor and potential 2016 GOP clown car occupant, Chris Christie.

After Hillary Clinton called for universal opt-out voter registration and 20 day early voting in every state, to no one's surprise, Christie, Republicans everywhere and their enablers in the media immediately went on the attack.

Christie lashed out at Clinton for the push for early voting, claiming that she "just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country.” Anyone who actually follows the facts, rather than Republican fearmongering on the issue knows full well that voter fraud is virtually non-existent, but that hasn't stopped them from doing just that every time someone sticks a microphone anywhere near one of their mouths.

They get away with repeating that lie because television hosts like John Dickerson allow it, as the viewers were treated to this Sunday:

DICKERSON: Hillary Clinton mentioned you and said you and other Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to vote. What is your reaction to that?

CHRISTIE: She doesn't know what she's talking about.

In New Jersey, we have early voting that are available to people. I don't want to expand it and increase the opportunities for fraud. Maybe that's what Mrs. Clinton wants to do. I don't know.

But the fact is that folks in New Jersey have plenty of an opportunity to vote. And maybe if she took some questions some places and learned some things, maybe she wouldn't make such ridiculous statements.

DICKERSON: She says it's fear-mongering, this idea that there's a lot of election fraud going on.

CHRISTIE: Yes. Well, she's never been to New Jersey, I guess.

Which of course got zero follow up by Dickerson. Our friend Steve M. took Dickerson apart for that quite nicely here (emphasis mine): Voter Fraud: The Socially Acceptable Conspiracy Theory:

There were so many opportunities for Dickerson to ask a strong follow-up here, or several follow-ups. He could have asked: Governor, are you saying that early voting leads directly to voter fraud? In which case, why aren't you trying to eliminate it in your state? Or are you saying that you have just the right number of days of early voting in your state in order to prevent voter fraud, but if you had any more, suddenly there'd be voter fraud? In which case, what's the magic formula? At what point does early voting inevitably lead to voter fraud? Are you aware of any cases of voter fraud that have arisen in your state as a result of early voting? Are you aware of any voter fraud in your state at all?

Dickerson doesn't ask any of that. He does ask, referring to Hillary Clinton, "She says it's fearmongering, this idea that there's a lot of election fraud going on." Christie replies, "Yeah, well, she's never been to New Jersey, I guess."

Meaning what? If she knew my state, she'd know what a fraud-ridden hellhole it is? Is he actually bragging about the level of voter fraud in New Jersey?

Shouldn't Dickerson have asked him to elaborate on this? Shouldn't he have tried to make the factual point that voter fraud essentially doesn't exist in this country, rather than treating the nonexistence of voter fraud as Hillary Clinton's opinion?

No, that's not how it works. The Republican Party is all in on the notion of widespread voter fraud, so the mainstream media allows it to be discussed as if skeptics are just expressing an opinion rather than reporting a fact. In the view of the mainstream press, it's perfectly OK for Christie to assert that the mythical voter-fraud problem is real and to make the utterly unsubstantiated assertion that too much early voting leads to voter fraud. You can't challenge these assertions as utterly contrary to the facts -- it would be considered biased and rude.

Dickerson seems to have gone to the same "school" of "journalism" as Chuck Todd, where you learn not to ask tough questions because your guests might not want to come back.


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