Email #146: “left-wing activists and their willing allies in the media”?

Vice-President Pence said to a crowd on the administration’s 100th day in office:

“While left-wing activists and their willing allies in the media, while they’ve been ignoring the facts and spreading that fake news, the American people know the truth. The truth is President Trump has been relentlessly delivering on the promises he’s made to the American people and America is back.”

The President tweeted the same day:

“Mainstream (FAKE) media refuses to state our long list of achievements, including 28 legislative signings, strong borders & great optimism!”

The administration’s consistent attack on mainstream news media as “FAKE NEWS” is disturbing and undermining of our country’s democratic norms. Other prominent Republicans agree. After President Trump called the media “the enemy of the American people,” former President Bush responded:

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

Is there any evidence that mainstream news outlets are “willing allies” of “left-wing activists”?

According to AllSides.com, CNN, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal are “center,” but the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, CBS, and NBC “lean left.” The outliers, Fox News and MSNBC are “right” and “left,” respectively. (The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed section is also “right,” but that bias apparently does not define their news reporting.) Virginia’s Richmond Times Dispatch is also “lean right.”

According to MediaBiasFactCheck.com, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN have a “left-center bias”; USA Today is “least biased”; and the Wall Street Journal and the Richmond Times Dispatch have a “right-center bias.” The outliers are again MSNBC’s “left bias” and Fox News’ “right bias.”

The near exact overlap suggests that, yes, the mainstream media leans slightly left. While a reasonable person, especially a reasonable conservative, would find this bias frustrating and somewhat unfair, it does not rise anywhere near the administration’s repeated allegations of “FAKE NEWS.”

Based on these ratings, a reasonable person, whether conservative or progressive, would ignore Fox News and MSNBC, trust USA Today, tentatively trust CNN and the Wall Street Journal, and read but carefully scrutinize all of the other major news sources listed above. Based on their own statements, however, the President and Vice-President are not reasonable people.

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, it is your responsibility to call to account members of the executive branch who abuse their power. But you have said nothing about the administration’s unfounded and anti-democratic attacks on the media. Your silence even implies agreement.

The President’s labeling of all critical news reports as “FAKE NEWS” is an abuse of power that undermines trust in the office of the Presidency. He is lying to the American people.  When will you do your job and hold him to account?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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