Just over three weeks before Election Day 2016, Chris Cillizza, now with CNN, infamously tweeted, “Let me say for the billionth time: Reporters don’t root for a side. Period.”
No doubt he really believed it, as do many journalists who truly feel they are treating their stories’ subjects fairly. But as a group, their overall body of work shows quite clearly that they have “put on the jersey,” meaning that members of mainstream media are squarely on President Joe Biden’s team and have been since before Election Day 2020.
In the latest iteration of the media’s anti-Trump bias, The Washington Post was forced to issue a massive and embarrassing correction on its reporting of a phone call between former President Donald Trump and a Georgia official regarding disputed election results.
The quotes attributed to Trump by a single, anonymous source were things he actually did not say, as proven by a recording of the call released two months after the original, erroneous reporting.
Unexplained in this fiasco is how multiple news outlets were able to independently and wrongly confirm the initial, factually inaccurate story in the first place.
Worse, the fake quotes included in the first version of the Georgia phone call story were seized upon by Democrats and deployed during Trump’s second impeachment trial. Here was bad reporting being weaponized for political purposes.
This should be a jarring wake-up call for journalists. In all likelihood, it probably will not be.
As communications director for the Trump 2020 campaign for two years, I saw the media’s bias in action daily. Perhaps there was no better example than our elongated struggle to get Beltway reporters to cover the story surrounding Hunter Biden’s business dealings, which we viewed as a scandal that involved Joe Biden every bit as much as his son.
The media dug in and enforced an almost total news blackout of the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop, which contained emails that we strongly believed connected Joe Biden himself as having known about, approved of, and possibly benefitted from Hunter Biden’s foreign schemes. Social media giants blocked users from sharing it and Twitter even locked the account of the New York Post for having broken the story in the first place.
Most outlets only reported on the laptop in the context of trying to discredit it as an implication of Joe Biden. And almost every publication trumpeted a letter from “former senior intelligence officials,” who wrote that the information contained on the laptop seemed like “Russian disinformation,” even though they admitted they had no actual knowledge of that being the case.
The emergence of Tony Bobulinski, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, did little to sway reporters, who were alarmingly unconcerned about his adamant assertion that Joe Biden knew all about the overseas transactions and was actually cut in on some of the action.
And when James Rosen of Sinclair Broadcasting broke the story that in 2019 the FBI opened a money laundering investigation into Hunter Biden and his associates, which was still considered “open and ongoing,” no one else in the Beltway media showed the slightest interest.
Over the course of the last two weeks of the 2020 campaign, we held repeated conference calls with the media, often featuring U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives, calling on reporters to lift the blackout and cover the story in the manner it deserved.
As Election Day neared, we implored journalists to tap their sources at the Department of Justice to confirm the FBI investigation into the activities of Hunter Biden and his associates, as Rosen had done for Sinclair Broadcasting.
There were no takers, except for a few who went through the front door of the Department of Justice press office to receive a standard refusal to comment, rather than enlisting the legion of anonymous sources they frequently used to write stories about Trump.
It was not until Dec. 9, 2020—more than a month after the election—that the media felt safe to report on the FBI investigation into Hunter Biden. And that was only because he issued a statement himself confirming its existence.
The media blackout worked. Trump pollster John McLaughlin found that 36% of Joe Biden voters were unaware of the entire saga, and that 4.6% of total Biden voters would have changed their minds if they had known about it—clearly enough to swing the election in key states.
With Election Day behind them, major news outlets have continued their practice of slanted reporting, both to continue heaping scorn on Trump and to promote Biden.
Another way to gauge which way the media leans is to examine accounts of similar episodes occurring under both Trump’s and Biden’s administrations. The disparate treatment of comparable events is striking.
In March 2020, The Washington Post gloomily reported on Trump’s approval of a coronavirus relief package under the headline, “Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain.”
Nearly a year later, the Post openly celebrated Biden’s approval of a $1.9 trillion package by tweeting the headline, “Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty in defining move of presidency.”
In an apoplectic headline about the Trump administration’s response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The New York Times fumed, “In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing.”
But when Biden failed to take any strong action against the Saudis after he became president, The New York Times gave it a soft landing with the friendly and empathetic headline, “Biden Won’t Penalize Saudi Crown Prince Over Khashoggi’s Killing, Fearing Relations Breach.”
The media is forever creative, however, as sometimes a clear Democratic scandal can also be turned against Republicans. Take, for example, the handling of two scandals battering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—the forcing of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes while covering up the number of deaths, and the growing list of women accusing him of sexual assault and harassment.
On the story involving Cuomo’s alleged conduct with women, the venerable Associated Press was still able to work in criticism of Republicans and praise for Biden at the same time, offering this opinion in what masqueraded as a straight news piece:
Republicans have seized on the scandal to try to distract from Biden’s success tackling the coronavirus pandemic and challenge his party’s well-established advantage with female voters.
To the credit of some in the White House press corps, a substantial amount has been written about Biden’s refusal to hold a press conference, likely because reporters have personal interest in such an event. So Biden, who was excessively protected from the media by staff during the campaign and has been known to wander wildly off-script, has yet to face wide-ranging and rapid-fire questioning.
But that did not stop Politico from gushing that Biden “has surprised some of his former colleagues and allies with a largely gaffe-free White House debut,” despite purposefully limited opportunities to make such mistakes.
The mainstream press wants very much for the public to believe that they have not chosen sides. But their 2020 campaign coverage and their reporting on the first weeks of the new president reveal that too many of them are indeed wearing the Biden jersey.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email [email protected] and we will consider publishing your remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature.