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Friday, December 16, 2016

Nothing to see here folks, move along

by digby

The media is being very defensive about President Obama's contention that they were obsessive about Hillary Clinton's alleged corruption during the campaign. Very defensive.

John Amato caught Jake Tapper being particularly testy on the subject:

CNN's Jake Tapper addressed how he felt the media was being unfairly tarred by both the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

He said he didn't want to draw false equivalencies, but in reality that's why he actually did. Tapper rightly called out Trump surrogates for attempting to deny Russia's involvement in cyber espionage on our election process.

He said, "U.S. intelligence agencies are saying very clearly that Russians conducted these hacks of the DNC and John Podesta - some of the e-mails ended up in the public domain through Wikileaks and that may have had an influence on the election, one way or another...And that's just a fact."

On the flip side he argued against Clinton and President Obama for claiming that the media focused way too much on Clinton's emails and the Foundation and not much else.

Tapper said, "We're hearing this from comments Hillary Clinton made last night and President Obama suggesting "there's no doubt it contributed [the Russian hacks] to the atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time were Hillary's e-mail, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC."

Tapper claimed, "That didn't happen. There was no time during the election where the only thing we heard about was Hillary's e-mail, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC."

He continued, "You can argue we heard about it too much, but I certainly recall a lot of negative coverage of Donald Trump."

Tapper apparently hasn't heard or didn't understand the real critique. It's not that the press didn't offer negative coverage of trump, it's that they pounded on simple story about Clinton allegedly being secretive and corrupt over and over and over again until it took on a life of its own. It got to the point that the word "email" and Clinton added up to Watergate in people's minds. And it simply was not justified. Clinton's so-called "corruption" was a pale imitation of what we're seeing with Trump and I don't think very many reporters were following his conflicts of interest and the fact that he had no plan to deal with it. It only came up in one primary debate at the very beginning of the cycle --- and Maria Bartiromo let trump get away with saying ythat giving his business to his kids is the same thing as a blind trust.

There was no contest between the Clinton email story and the overwhelming number of egregious conflicts, crimes and
grotesque abuses in Donald Trump's history. To see the press defend their phony need to "balance" that coverage is really depressing.

FWIW, I wrote a piece about the press for Salon last June in which I mentioned a Clinton state department story that Jake Tapper seemed to see as an extremely important example of government malfeasance that played into Clinton's reputation for secretiveness. This is an excerpt:

Here is an example of false equivalence from just this week. Nobody has done more to probe Donald Trump's noxious views than CNN's Jake Tapper. His grilling of the candidate over his bigoted comments about the federal judge overseeing his Trump University lawsuit in California was as good as it gets and he received many kudos for his aggressive journalism.

He continued to report on Trump on his show yesterday but also featured a harsh criticism of Hillary Clinton in which he lambasted the State Department's stated inability to release emails pertaining to her work on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal to reporter David Sirota until after the election. He took on a very aggressive tone, editorializing about the importance of releasing this information when people are deciding whether to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

However, he notes that while Clinton was President Obama's Secretary of State she openly advocated for the deal in glowing terms, even calling it the "gold standard", facts which have been known for years and have been well hashed out on the campaign trail and in the debates with Bernie Sanders. Now she says she has changed her mind and is against the deal. Politifact called it a flip-flop.

So what exactly does Tapper think they will learn about her position that they don't already know? Maybe she was more involved than she says she was, which would be interesting, but somewhat meaningless since we know she advocated strongly for it all over the world. In the end you either believe she's really changed her mind or you don't and these documents from years ago will not shed any new light on that.

I don't mean to pick on Tapper. He's a great journalist, one of the best on cable news. The temptation to try to "even things out" with this sort of coverage has to be overwhelming when a personality like Trump dominates the coverage the way he does. It must feel to a straight mainstream journalist as if they're piling on him every day and it looks like they're being partisan and unfair. Certainly the right wing is accusing them of that non-stop --- as they have been for more than 30 years.

But the result of this "distortion toward the middle" as Jay Rosen calls it, has the perverse affect of normalizing Trump and pathologizing Clinton in a way that equalizes them to Trump's advantage. He is an unqualified, unfit, unhinged authoritarian demagogue and she is a mainstream Democratic party politician. There is no equivalence between them. Let's hope the press listens to some of these critics and does a serious gut check whenever they are tempted to "balance" the coverage in this election.

This is what happened. And it had an effect. A big one, even if they refuse to admit it.