3 biggest media fails of 2021 — from CNN, NBC and Politico
As 2022 begins I’m offering a new-year discount for those looking to subscribe and to support fearless media criticism, as well as independent voices.
Normalizing radical Republicans while stacking the deck against President Joe Biden were two telltale media malfunctions in 2021. Here’s three specific examples of the type of journalism that needs to be erased this year.
Politico: “How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic”
Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis ended 2021 in hiding, as Covid swept over the state like a crashing wave. After branding himself into an anti-mask and anti-mandate warrior in order to tap into the GOP’s anti-science base, Florida got knocked on its heels once again as 2021 closed, surging past 75,000 new daily cases. (That’s up from 500 daily cases in July.)
Still, for much of the year the political press cheered him on, most famously in the form of a Hall-of-Fame-awful Politico headline, “How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic.” The staggering newsroom miscue last spring came after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus, and after DeSantis spent 2020 and 2021 trying to silence scientists, covering up data, rescinding mask ordinances, and playing down the virus' threat. He rolled out harmful executive orders, launched dubious legal actions, and made bullying threats in order to undermine local school boards. He even foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.
So eager was the press to pump up a Republican governor and present him as a Covid leader after Trump’s colossal failure as president that DeSantis was crowned a savvy star. “DeSantis is standing unabashedly tall among the nation's governors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight," CNN cheered in March, adding that he remained "defiant and combative.” And when the governor recently took the irresponsible move of forbidding local school districts from mandating masks for students, CNN ran a pro-GOP chyron: “DeSantis signs executive order giving parents power to choose whether to mask kids at school.”
Then came the summertime Delta variant and Florida became the epicenter for the deadly Covid outbreak, as the governor continued to loudly rail against life-saving mandates. The infection cycle was then repeated in December as Omicron swept the state with Floridians scrambled to find testing, which the state refused to provide.
Eagerly portraying DeSantis as a Covid maverick as he pushed public health misinformation and oversaw a year of unnecessary deaths represented a media low point in 2021.
CNN’s hour-long Chris Christie
What a bizarre spectacle it was when CNN aired an hour-long primetime special featuring former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who launched a failed 2016 presidential run, famously flaming out after just one primary contest, and then left office in New Jersey as the most unpopular sitting governor in American history.
CNN held Christie up as a Very Important Person despite the fact he currently has no national standing, no constituency, and no voice or vote in public policy. Worse, during the show, CNN’s Dana Bash never once asked Christie about the BridgeGate scandal that ended his political career.
Not only did the special flop spectacularly with CNN viewers, garnering barely 600,000 viewers, it failed to sell copies of the book Christie was peddling at the time, “Republican Rescue.” According to the industry’s BookScan tabulations, it sold just 2,300 copies during its first week in stores, which constitutes a colossal publishing flop.
How Christie was able to sell so few books after lining up so much national media attention during his marketing roll-out — “This Week” and “The View,” “Fox & Friends,” along with Fox News, Fox Business, the Daily Show, HBO twice, and CNBC — confirmed the media’s extraordinary disconnect with everyday Americans.
The press keeps trying to prop up a Republican like Christie as a Populist Straight Shooter. Most people view him as a has-been.
NBC ignores blockbuster 943,000 new jobs report
It’s hard to believe this actually happened, but it did. On August 6, the Department of Labor released the July jobs report which produced mind-boggling results — nearly 1 million new jobs were created as the U.S. economy roared back to life following the pandemic. For some inconceivable reason, “NBC Nightly News” on August 6 did not cover the jobs report; no mention was made at all.
They weren’t alone in shrugging off the fantastic economic news for the Biden administration. At 4 p.m. on that Friday, roughly seven hours after the stellar July job numbers were released, the story was highlighted in the 37th headline as you scrolled down the NBC News homepage. At the CBS News homepage, none of the top 50 headlines at that time addressed the jackpot economic report.
At CNN, by Friday afternoon the jobs report had been blacked out as the network’s homepage made way for “This Underrated Form of Exercise is So Good for You,” and “Lucy Lawless Reunites With 'Xena' Costar.”
The episode was perhaps the best indication that when it came to economic news, the press had a very specific story it wanted to tell in 2021 (inflation!), and that good news could be set aside.
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
📰 GOOD STUFF:
Nobody knows what’s going to happen with the midterms this year, and clearly Democrats face a tough road as they control the House, Senate and White House and the party in power often suffer setbacks.
But the D.C. press has been obsessed with burying Dems before one vote has been cast. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne asks the right question in his new column, “Must Democrats Get Crushed in 2022?”:
Democratic hope-mongers imagine better times soon. They see a world in which the coronavirus pandemic threat recedes, high levels of economic growth continue — for which President Biden, finally, gets some credit — and inflation comes down.
And, yes, they assume Democrats in Congress will reach some kind of deal on the president’s Build Back Better program while the Senate pushes aside the filibuster to enact two voting rights bills that would allow the elections to be held with some degree of fairness.
🏔 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Let’s kick off the new year with a rollicking new song from the nifty Americana band, Pinegrove. It’s from their upcoming fifth album, due out this month. The song clocks in at just 2:06, but it packs a memorable punch.
Last month in Alaska
The pattern of my life laid out
And I asked what I'd been asking you
Like trees repeat, like numerals do
Like a ladder to the atmosphere
The rungs each come again and again
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click here to listen via Apple Music.