A quick pre-election pitch.
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Falling for a flat-out GOP fabrication, NBC's "Today" show on Monday maligned Joe Biden by suggesting he forgot who he was running against during the final days of the campaign. The morning wake-up show then compounded its error by not apologizing for the egregious mistake, and instead offered up a timid explanation for how the news show got duped by the Trump campaign.
It's the latest reminder of how news outlets have to remain on high alert when dealing with the wildly dishonest Trump team, and ought to assume every claim they make, every video they post, is untruthful until proven otherwise. That sort of thoroughness would have saved NBC from its embarrassing stumble on Monday morning.
On Sunday night Trump's rapid response team, which has been pushing the hollow narrative that Biden might be senile and is constantly confused on the campaign trail, tweeted out a brief clip from a Q & A Biden gave over the weekend. They claimed he had become confused about who he was running against because he kept mentioning "George" during one answer, thinking there was a Bush in the White House.
The right-wing media pounced, and immediately boosted the clip, which went viral and soon clocked over one million views:
• "Joe Biden Confuses Donald Trump With George W. Bush" (The Federalist)
• "Biden appears to confuse Trump with Bush while on campaign trail" (Washington Examiner)
• "GOP accuses Joe Biden of confusing his opponent after ‘George’ comment" (Fox News)
Trump got in on it, too. “Joe Biden called me George yesterday," he tweeted Monday. "Couldn’t remember my name. Got some help from the anchor to get him through the interview. The Fake News Cartel is working overtime to cover it up!”
It turns out, Biden mentioned "George" in his interview response because he was being interviewed by comedian George Lopez, as Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel noted on Twitter.
Biden's entire quote:
This is the most consequential — not because I’m running, but because of who I’m running against — this is the most consequential election in a long, long, long time and the character of the country, in my view, is literally on the ballot. What kind of country are we going to be? Four more years of — George, George — we are going to find ourselves in a position where if Trump gets elected, we’re going to be in a different world.
The Trump campaign simply ripped an innocuous Biden comment out of context and invented a "gaffe" where none existed, knowing the dishonest conservative press would help boost it. Then it hoped the mainstream media would run with it, too.
Unfortunately, the "Today" show did.
"Biden making headlines overnight after appearing to confuse his opponent's name," NBC reported Monday morning. "It comes as the former Vice President was pressed to respond to the president's claims that Biden is mentally fit to serve." So not only did the "Today" show get duped by the Trump campaign, it made sure to amplify its claims about Biden not being "mentally fit to serve."
The Trump campaign was thrilled when "Today" picked up the bogus video clip and treated it as news: "WOW! Even The TODAY Show had to cover Joe Biden thinking George W. Bush was president. That's how you know this is BAD."
"Today" show producers then made things worse. Instead of apologizing to Biden when it became obvious that he had not misspoken during his "George" interview, NBC attached an editor's note to its erroneous report: "The video of Joe Biden talking about the 2020 election and "four more years of George…" came from an interview that Biden did Sunday with George Lopez. The fact Biden was talking with George Lopez was relevant and helpful context that should have been included in the original report."
That doesn't make any sense — if NBC had included that Biden was speaking to George Lopez in its Monday morning report, NBC never would have used the clip claiming that Biden appeared "to confuse his opponent's name." Because if viewers knew Biden was addressing a George, the whole gotcha implodes.
It's a bit ironic, and definitely distressing, that news outlets that constantly press to hold public officials accountable and urge transparency, often fail to do the same when they make mistake, as this case with NBC.
Trump and his official campaign are such committed liars that nothing they say or produce should be accepted as fact — nothing. Is that a sad and extreme state of affairs for an American presidential election? It is. But that's the reality the GOP has created, and the press has to adjust. The days of journalists relying on Republicans to produce reliable opposition research against its opponent, or uncovering a questionable comment or phrase out on the trail that's genuinely newsworthy, are long gone.
The Trump campaign has committed itself to the dark arts. It's as if members of the Breitbart comment section are running a presidential run — it's childish and deceitful.
And frankly, October 2020 is awfully late for news outlets like NBC to be getting duped by the Trump campaign.
One of the big, missed news stories of the last four years has been the GOP's radical turn towards authoritarianism. Anxious to maintain Both Sides coverage, where Republicans and Democrats are presented as mirror opposites of each other (center-right vs. center-left), the Beltway press has shown little interest in detailing the blatant, anti-democratic extremism of today's Republican Party.
International researchers aren't as timid. From The Guardian article, "Republicans closely resemble autocratic parties in Hungary and Turkey – study":
The Republican party has become dramatically more illiberal in the past two decades and now more closely resembles ruling parties in autocratic societies than its former center-right equivalents in Europe, according to a new international study.
In a significant shift since 2000, the GOP has taken to demonizing and encouraging violence against its opponents, adopting attitudes and tactics comparable to ruling nationalist parties in Hungary, India, Poland and Turkey.
🎧 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Janelle Monáe, "Turntables"
“What is a revolution without a song?” the R&B star recently told Rolling Stone, discussing her new anthemic wonder, "Turntables." "I started thinking about all the people on the front line. What could be my gift to them? It was this song to remind them that the tables are turning. We’re seeing that progress is being made, even in the midst of dealing with such traumatic events. We have figured out a way to be the solution. I wanted this to be my gift because revolutionaries need love too. They need inspiration, and they need an anthem. This is my stab at that.”
This might also be my favorite music video of the year.
I keep my hands dirty
My mind clean
Got a new agenda
With a new dream
I'm kicking out the old regime
Liberation, elevation, education