The AP's colossal campaign failure

Trump's "dueling reality"

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The Associated Press kicked off the unofficial start of the presidential general election over the Labor Day weekend with a dreadful news piece that perfectly captured everything that's gone wrong with political news reporting in the age of Trump.

Embracing Both Sides journalism and injecting it with steroids, the AP suggested Joe Biden and Trump are offering "dueling version of reality" this campaign and that voters simply have to choose which one they believe. It represents another disturbing example of the AP embracing GOP talking points.

From Steve People's, the AP's chief political reporter:

On the campaign trail with President Donald Trump, the pandemic is largely over, the economy is roaring back, and murderous mobs are infiltrating America’s suburbs. With Democrat Joe Biden, the pandemic is raging, the economy isn’t lifting the working class, and systemic racism threatens Black lives across America.

The AP stressed the "dizzyingly different versions of reality" offered by the two candidates, and that their "conflicting messages carry at least a sliver of truth, some much more than others."

Incredibly, the AP never informs readers which "version" of reality is accurate (Biden), and which one is a complete fabrication (Trump). And the AP never details what "sliver of truth" is attached to Trump's claim that the pandemic is basically over. For the AP, the news story is that Biden and Trump are painting different portraits of America — that's what's defining the campaign.

At a time when the nation desperately needs clear-headed campaign reporting as the incumbent abandons all traditions and guidelines for a presidential campaign, the AP provides the opposite — a Both Sides bonanza that helps Trump muddy the waters.



Signaling that the AP has not only failed to learn lessons from the media's 2016 campaign malfunction covering Trump, the wire service, with this latest piece, is actually producing worse reporting and analysis this time around. It's worse because unlike in 2016, Trump in 2020 has a record of endless lies and erratic White House behavior he must run on. Instead of taking that into account and calling Trump out for the dangerous, radical candidate that he is, the AP politely normalizes him and pretends he's merely offering up a different view of reality than is Biden.

This striking failure stems from the cancer that has infected the Beltway press corps during the Trump era — refusing to label Trump a liar, even though he's a pathological liar. The larger problem is that that mentality seeps into the overall Trump coverage, to the point where the AP suggests blatant lies about the pandemic, the economy, and street protests fall under the gentle umbrella of "dueling versions of reality."

We can draw a direct line from the press refusing to call Trump a liar to the press utilizing phrases like dueling realities and alternative facts to politely describe Trump's lying ways. Last spring, the New York Times published an insightful piece about how Trump's goal "was to annihilate the distinction between truth and falsity, to make sure that we no longer share facts in common."

The problem was the piece ran under the headline, "Trump Has Made Alternative Facts a Way of Life." As Soledad O'Brien noted on Twitter, "When you call something “alternative facts” you embrace the bullshit idea that there is such a thing."

Proud of its down-the-middle, just-the-facts news coverage, the AP actually has a long history of allowing Republicans to shape the wire service's campaign and presidential storylines.

Four years ago, the AP published a widely ridiculed and thoroughly false investigative piece about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. Pushing the GOP narrative that Clinton had used the A-rated charity unethically, the AP reported that "More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.” But the AP only included 154 people who worked outside the government who met with Clinton while she served as secretary of state. Does anyone honestly think that in four years at the State Department, Clinton met with just 154 people? That number is probably in the thousands.

Meanwhile, when George W. Bush and Barack Obama served as president, the AP's Washington, D.C. bureau chief, Ron Fournier, made a career out of being a dependable Republican voice. During the early days of the 2008 campaign the supposedly non-partisan writer questioned whether John Edwards was a “phony." He claimed “both Obama and his wife, Michelle, ooze a sense of entitlement.” As for Hillary Clinton, Fournier, a staunch McCain ally, was relentless, dubbing her “Slick Hillary." She was showing "desperation," wallowed in "self-pity" and "utter self-absorption." She had “more baggage than Samsonite.”

Four years earlier, in an email exchange with Bush’s re-election guru Karl Rove, Fournier told the Republican to "keep up the good fight"— while Fournier was covering the unfolding campaign for the AP.

We have eight weeks until Election Day. News outlets and consumers all over the country are depending on the AP to produce trustworthy campaign coverage that does not shy away from telling the truth about Trump. Claiming he and Biden offer "dueling views of reality" represents a colossal failure.

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⛰ Bulwark has become an interesting publication since it’s launch nearly two years ago. Staffed mostly by Never Trump conservative writers, it often offers an enlightening perspective.

I recommend this piece on Sen. Cory Gardiner (R-CO), and how a once certain rising star of the Republican Party is facing career doom in November thanks to the stain of Trump, as Colorado voters prepare to vote Gardner out of office.

From, “Cory Gardner and the Toxic Republican Party”:

There’s new polling out today which suggests that Gardner isn’t just toast: The toast is on fire, the fire has turned the toast to charred carbon, and the remains of the toast have been shot into the sun and reduced to their component atoms.

Have a look at the numbers.

Gardner is an incumbent senator in a purple state and he’s polling at 39 percent among likely voters.


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Gillian Welch, “Mighty Good Book”

Appalachian, bluegrass, country and Americana singer and songwriter Gillian Welch can do it all. With a singularly piercing and haunting voice, Welch conjures up a distant American past with her stripped-down songs of everyday love and struggles. Her 1996 debut album, Revivial, was a revelation, sounding like a time capsule from a far-away mountain range.

Her latest album finds her uncovering dozens of unreleased songs that she’s stashed away over the years, often recorded with her sterling musical partner David Rawlings.

“Mighty Good Book” is an endearing, lilting ode to the Greatest Story Ever Told.

There's a mighty Good Book, and it tells a story
It's a Bible on a shelf
Oh, you know the names, and you know the stories
Have you ever read it for yourself?