The media's defining failure of 2020

Covering for the GOP

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Let's state the obvious: If Republicans supported Covid relief for millions of struggling Americans who desperately need financial assistance, then Republicans would have already passed Covid relief.

That apparent fact has been on display all year. And yet throughout 2020, the Beltway press has provided political cover for the GOP by pretending it's a mystery as to why relief hasn't reached Americans, and that only "dysfunction" can explain the lack of Congressional action. Failing to hold Republicans accountable during a national health crisis now stands as the media's defining failure of this crucial year, in part because it encapsulates so many hallmark media shortcomings of the Trump era.

The bogus Both Sides narrative has shifted into overdrive in recent days. Democrats are sponsoring a radically trimmed-down Covid relief bill, which actually has bipartisan support, but Republican leaders won't allow a vote. Still, the press maintains that the two parties are to blame. "It’s the latest evidence Washington is broken: at the peak of the worst public health crisis in a century, the White House and Congress are struggling to deliver another round of relief," Politico reported.

On CBS News, Gayle King wondered, "Why hasn't Congress done more at this point?" The Congressional Covid failure represents "an institution gripped with paralysis," the New York Times stressed, while the Washington Post claimed the lack of legislation was due to "bickering."

This is the safe spot the Beltway media loves to occupy. They love to throw up their hands and tell news consumers Congress is broken and that mindless "gridlock" rules the day. What the press doesn't like to do is call out radical Republican obstructionism because that invites cries of "liberal media bias." The press desperately wants to maintain the framing that today's GOP is filled with honorable men and women who simply disagree with Democrats, and that of course Republicans want to help struggling Americans who have lost their jobs and face evictions.

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But Republicans clearly do not, and they have been quite open about that all year. For months, prominent Republicans and conservatives have been arguing there's no need to pass any further Covid relief bill, which is why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can't get a majority of Republicans to vote "Yes" on any assistance legislation. And Republicans are the reason weekly $600 relief government checks were cut off this summer.

Since April, Republicans have been sabotaging all negotiations, and since April the press has tagged Both Sides for not passing a relief package that is universally seen as crucial to the country's economic survival. It's an astonishing abdication of journalism. When McConnell last week torpedoed the bipartisan bill being worked on in the Senate, a Politico reporter tweeted, "MCCONNELL puts out message that the bipartisan deal won’t work for senate Rs."

Wouldn't normalcy and clarity call for, "MCCONNELL blocks bipartisan deal"? Indeed, why haven't we seen a year’s worth of "Republicans Block Covid Relief" headlines from the Beltway media? The irony is that last winter, the press relentlessly attacked Democrats for "blocking" the first Covid relief bill, when Democrats briefly held out for key improvements to the HEROES Act.

Journalists covering Capitol Hill understand how legislation is made. They understand when parties are working in good faith and when one side is simply obstructing. There is no deep mystery involved. Republicans have been blocking Covid relief for eight months (!), yet journalists remain committed to the storyline that Both Sides cannot come together and compromise for the good of the nation. "Capitol Hill's failure to compromise" is hurting America, CNN recently stressed.

Let's talk about compromising. House Democrats in May passed a massive $3 trillion Covid relief package. To win over Republican support in the Senate, they then agreed to support a smaller $2 trillion version. Today, they’re ready to sign off on a further reduced $908 billion proposal.

Republican leaders won't even agree to that, yet the press consistently blames "Congress" for not being able to meet halfway and pass much-needed assistance. It's not possible that journalists don't see what's happening. It's not possible that reporters, producers, and editors don't understand the dynamics so clearly in play, which means the misguided, Both Sides Covid coverage has been deliberately designed to mislead news consumers.

And it's working!

Recent polling suggests a plurality of Americans blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the delay in passing Covid relief. This, despite the fact Pelosi oversaw the passage of a $3 trillion Covid assistance bill, which the Republican Senate promptly ignored, in part because the White House told Republicans that the pandemic would be over by September.

Why do so many Americans blame Pelosi? Because the press has flushed the Democrats' $3 trillion relief bill down the memory hole, as they continue to stress that Both Sides are to blame for the lack of action. The unprecedented $3 trillion American bailout is almost never mentioned in the coverage today over Covid negotiations. Committed to the idea that Both Sides aren't budging, the fact that Democrats have moved from $3 trillion to $900 billion is set aside because it ruins the "gridlock" storyline.

Last October, CNN's Wolf Blitzer launched into a heated argument with Pelosi, demanding to know why she wouldn't accept a White House relief proposal, even though Senate Republicans didn't support it, which meant the White House proposal would never be voted on. Republicans were openly fighting among themselves over Covid relief, but Pelosi was the one who got excoriated on TV.

If Americans don’t receive additional, government relief it will be because Republicans don’t want them to. Why is that story so hard for the press to tell?



I don’t often link to The National Review. But the fact that some of its conservative writers are gobsmacked and frightened by Trump’s ludicrous “election challenge” helps add perspective.

Andrew McCarthy’s, “A Stunning Passage from the Latest Court Rejection of Team Trump” addresses the recent Trump court defeat in Wisconsin, where Trump-appointed judge Brett H. Ludwig did the honors [emphasis added]:

Judge Ludwig denied the state’s claims that the campaign lacked standing. Instead, he gave the campaign the hearing they asked for — the opportunity to call witnesses and submit damning exhibits. Yet, when it got down to brass tacks, the morning of the hearing, it turned out there was no actual disagreement between the Trump team and Wisconsin officials about the pertinent facts of the case. The president’s counsel basically said: Never mind, we don’t need to present all our proof . . . we’ll just stipulate to all the relevant facts and argue legal principles.

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