One of the more tiresome partisan polkas we've witnessed in the years of President Donald Trump is the herky-jerky one around White House briefings. First, journalists insist that avoiding daily briefings is a dangerously undemocratic practice.
Then when there are suddenly daily briefings for a public health crisis, journalists insist airing those briefings live is a dangerous practice because the president allegedly spews so much misinformation.
You can easily hear the partisan echoes in the current coronavirus contrast. Liberal noisemakers are complaining. Sunny Hostin on ABC's "The View" said that airing the Trump-led press briefings live is a "disservice to the country." Co-host Joy Behar chimed in to say that she's "falling in love" with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo because his live coronavirus briefings — which air on national cable news — are "so brilliant."
Or see CNN's "Reliable Sources," where host Brian Stelter, Carl Bernstein and disgraced Dan Rather took turns hailing Gov. Cuomo as being so much stronger and smarter, and so much more inspirational, than Trump.
Democrats are presumed to be brilliant, and it's easier to impress when you have a pliant press corps. Would anyone imagine there's a cantankerous Jim Acosta in Albany, New York, yelling at Cuomo that he's ignorant and un-American?
When reporters challenge Trump, they are presumed to be brilliant. NBC's Peter Alexander asked Trump about potential drug treatments to inhibit the virus: "Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope and misrepresenting preparedness right now?" Trump admitted he was merely talking about "a feeling" he had. Then Alexander cited data on the coronavirus that says there are 200 dead and 14,000 sick. "Millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now," Alexander said. "What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?"
Alexander claimed this was a "softball" question, but he clearly exaggerated the number of sick, since thousands have recovered and not every confirmed case even gets symptoms. That's why Trump called him a "terrible reporter." Alexander's question was loaded, and so was the aftermath. The NBC News website posted an article with this headline: "Trump, promoting unproven drug treatments, insults NBC reporter at coronavirus briefing."
On MSNBC, host Chuck Todd lauded Alexander, the wounded yet courageous knight of the realm. "I want to thank you for your professionalism and the way you do represent NBC News and the Comcast family in that room," he said. "I wish the people on the other side of the podium had the same professionalism as well."
Trump's critique of Alexander, The Washington Post wrote in a "news story," showed Trump "lapsing into his self-destructive ways." As if journalists don't act in Trump-destructive ways? Reporters Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker opened with this hypernegative sentence: "President Trump was reeling from one of his worst weeks ever: The novel coronavirus was killing Americans, wrecking the economy and subsuming him and his presidency."
On "The View," former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered the prototypical defense of the Alexanders and the Acostas: that the president was "attacking a journalist" for "doing his job." That's fascinating because, in November 2012, (now-deceased) BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings told then-Mayor Emanuel he was just doing his job, and Emanuel allegedly grabbed Hastings by the arm and berated him for daring to ask about how he fundraised for a super PAC for the newly reelected Barack Obama. (An audio recording showed the berating was mutual.)
Reporters can be very opinionated, ill-tempered jerks. And then, when you protest their shtick, they put on their Guardians of Democracy superhero suits and say they're doing their job — for the people. No one voted to have them represent us. Even in a crisis, they only represent themselves, caring most deeply for their own hyperbolic liberal opinions.
(Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.)