August 26, 2021

Published with permission of PRESS RUN, Eric Boehlert’s must-read media newsletter. Subscribe here.

Biden administration officials fanned out across the White House, State Department, and Pentagon in recent days, answering hundreds of media inquiries about Afghanistan and the U.S. troop withdrawal. Unlike the previous administration, which lied to the press nonstop about every conceivable topic, Biden’s senior team has been offering serious, specific, and factual responses to the same endless questions.

Fact checkers at CNN and the Washington Post are not forced to churn out updates to detail all the “falsehoods” pouring out of the Biden White House. The president has been consistently factual throughout and has taken responsibility for the outcome. He’s also trying to do the right thing by evacuating as many people as possible, while still ending U.S. involvement in a lost military cause.

In that sense, Biden is the anti-Trump, he’s a straight shooter, whether you agree with him or not —and the press is trying to hang him for it.

For four years, Trump lied to the press every day of the week. He also insulted reporters to their face and did so with relish. (They tried to wave off the nasty barbs.) So why in recent days does the press seem personally more upset with Biden over a logistics failure in Afghanistan, than they ever were with Trump for being a pathological liar and an offensive name-caller?

As Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer observed, “Journalists who bragged of their objectivity during four twisted years of Trump are taking it personally and going off the deep end over Biden and the end of the war in Afghanistan. The truth is a casualty.”

Put another way, “Beltway press is like a child of divorce,” blogger Susie Madrak tweeted. “They save all their anger for Mom (Dems) because they're afraid if they display anger toward Dad (GOP), he'll stomp off and they'll never see him again.“

The press continues to sponsor a one-sided feeding frenzy that’s now well into its second week of doomsday coverage, even though encouraging developments emerge each day —  70,000 people now having been evacuated from Kabul. But that’s not the story the press wants to tell because they don’t want to abandon their preferred, “disaster” narrative. For instance, this doomsday Los Angeles Times write-up about Afghanistan does not include a single sentence about the tens of thousands of people who have been airlifted out of Kabul.

This isn’t just about comparing Biden’s press treatment to Trump’s. It’s about a long-running pattern where Republican liars not only aren’t punished by the press, they’re celebrated.  

George W. Bush’s administration famously lied for years about WMD’s being stockpiled inside Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the press actually helped spread that lie. Between September 2002 and February 2003, the Washington Post editorialized twenty-six times in favor of the war, while the editor of the New York Times was accused by his own reporters of pushing pro-war coverage in order to disprove the claim of liberal media bias at the paper. Today, the Times is out front leading the Beltway media’s over-the-top Afghanistan coverage.

Never forget that the media eagerly hyped a Republican war based on lies came after the same Beltway press corps lost its collective mind trying to bury a Democratic president for lying about an extramarital affair.

The Iraq War was a perfect example of the press penalizing Democrats for telling the truth and rewarding Republican liars.

Here’s another. During Trump’s four years in office, cable news outlets religiously aired the daily White House press briefings, live and in full. That had never been done before because previously, every utterance from the press secretary was not considered to be newsworthy. But the day Trump was inaugurated, news outlets immediately and collectively decided none of the old rules applied and proceeded to shower the Trump team with unprecedented, and unfiltered, time and attention. Then when Trump left office, news outlets immediately and collectively decided the old, pre-Trump rules ought to apply, and the plug was pulled on daily briefings.

Keep in mind that reporters at the Trump White House briefings were lied to without apology.

One memorable briefing moment of shame came in April of last year when Trump hosted one of the most bizarre televised performances by a sitting president. His choreographed rant featured a campaign-style commercial that aired in the briefing room and attacked the media as well as Trump's critics. Immediately following the meltdown, CNN anchor John King admitted, "That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room."

So why did CNN keep airing the briefings? Why the shoulder shrugging, that’s-Trump-being-Trump media response from journalists who today are cuing up to crucify Biden?

Trump’s relentless barrage of falsehoods then extended to the daily Covid-19 briefings he held where he lied without pause about a public health crisis. The low point came when Trump suggested Americans inject bleach into their bodies to fight off Covid-19. Common sense should have dictated that the press stop airing him because he was putting people’s health in jeopardy.

Instead, the press rewarded Trump’s lies for four years, then turned off their cameras when Biden’s truth-telling team arrived.

Published with permission of PRESS RUN, Eric Boehlert’s must-read media newsletter. Subscribe here.

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