In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned America about the “unwarranted influence” of a “military-industrial complex.” Were he speaking today, Ike might be warning about a media-political complex.
And for the same reason — the dangers to democracy and liberty of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power.”
However it ends, the 2016 presidential race will mark the low-water mark of journalism that is worthy of the First Amendment. Never before have so many media organizations, old and new, abandoned all pretense of fairness to take sides and try to pick a president.
Their cozy confederacy with the incumbent political faction is largely in opposition to public will. Although polls show a tight race for the White House, studies find staggeringly lopsided coverage, with Donald Trump getting far more negative coverage than Hillary Clinton.
A survey covering 12 weeks of the campaign after the summer conventions found that 91 percent of Trump coverage on the three largest broadcast networks was “hostile.” The Media Research Center also found that much of the focus was on Trump’s personal life, while the networks downplayed investigations into Clinton’s e-mails and her family foundation.
Thanks to WikiLeaks, we have irrefutable evidence that none of this is based on journalism standards. Rather, it reflects the incestuous relationship between liberal members of elite media organizations and the Democratic Party. The alliance mocks any claims that the media are independent.
John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, was caught fielding flattering comments from reporters and columnists and guiding coverage. One Politico reporter, Glenn Thrush, sent Podesta a story to review before it was published, calling himself a “hack” and pleading, “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this.”
CNN proved that its nickname, the Clinton News Network, is deserved. Only after WikiLeaks showed that Democratic Party honcho Donna Brazile, a paid commentator, twice gave Clinton debate questions in advance did the network sever its ties with her.
Tellingly, Clinton never rejected the insider advantage against rival Bernie Sanders, nor seemed surprised by it. And CNN still shows no curiosity about whether anyone else participated in the scam.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that playing favorites, while pretending to be neutral, is business-as-usual. The only difference is that WikiLeaks exposed the ugly truth. Much of the media world has long tilted left, but this year, the bias became open and notorious war because the liberal bell cow decided that Trump was not deserving of basic fairness.
When the New York Times crossed the Rubicon by allowing reporters to express their opinions in so-called news stories, the floodgates opened across the country as imitators followed suit.
The decision by editor Dean Baquet to dismantle the standards of the Times to try to elect Clinton will not be easy to reverse after the campaign. The standards were developed over decades to build public trust, and removing them elevates the editor’s bias to policy.
As such, the decision establishes a political litmus test for hiring, and new employees likely will be expected to echo the party line in their “reporting.” Let’s see how many conservatives or even moderates get promoted, and whether religiously observant employees feel discriminated against.
This “disastrous rise of misplaced power” is visible each and every day as the Times’ front-page headlines read like editorials in slamming Trump and boosting Clinton. Tuesday’s was a classic, with the top story accusing Trump of a “tax dodge” 30 years ago.
Beneath it, a separate story continues the paper’s assault on FBI Director James Comey for reopening the Clinton email investigation. “Comey’s Maneuver Recalls Hoover’s F.B.I., Fairly or Not” blares a headline.
If it’s not fair, why write it? The paper included an editorial blasting Comey and an op-ed that carries the headline, “The Long Shadow of J. Edgar Hoover.” News and opinion blur into each other, page after page, all with the same slant.
All this stands in sad contrast to the legacy of the great A.M. Rosenthal, the top news editor who led the Times to the journalistic mountaintop. As I have noted, Abe was zealous about keeping reporters’ and editors’ political bias out of the news pages, saying he wanted his epitaph to read, “He kept the paper straight.”
I always assumed that was a joke, but, after I mentioned it in a recent column, his widow, Shirley Lord Rosenthal, set me straight. Those words are indeed etched on the footstone of his Westchester gravesite, she said, and sent along the photo to prove it. Wow.
Abe’s dedication to fairness was a key ingredient in making the Times special, and now we know it was eternal. By abandoning fairness and promoting bias, his successors are doomed to stand in his shadow.
Chicago’s bloody curse
The slaughter in Chicago is breathtaking. The Windy City already has 600 murders this year, against 283 in New York, as of last week.
When you factor in population differences, the contrast is even more dramatic. Chicago has about 2.8 million people, compared with New York’s 8.4 million.
Blas’ vile charter treachery
There are many things to be said about Mayor Bill de Blasio, and though few are good, the absolute worst is his disgraceful bid to squash charter schools.
Each day, his claims to care about poor black and Latino children are disproven by his actions — and inactions.
His stonewalling of efforts to open new charters in areas where regular schools are failing is a devilish use of the bureaucracy. Approvals that took months under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg are taking years under de Blasio, if they come at all.
This is failure by design. He is currying favor with the teachers unions, which see the charter movement as an existential threat.
After all, the union has essentially said it can’t do anything to help poor children. The charters prove otherwise, which makes them dangerous.
The more schools they have, the more kids they help — so they must be stopped before they expand beyond their current population of about 90,000, or about 10 percent of the total student body.
The prime target of de Blasio’s slow-walking is the Success Academy network run by Eva Moskowitz. In a memo, she cites example after example where charters are denied space in partially occupied public buildings, with some middle schools waiting two years to open.
This is beyond personal. With 45,000 families waiting for a charter spot, the mayor is holding them hostage to favor a special-interest group of adults.
It’s so vile, it ought to be a crime.
Huma sees the real Chill-ary
Huma Abedin is getting the full Hillary Clinton treatment — under the bus.
After 20 years of loyal servitude, Abedin is no longer traveling with Clinton following the FBI’s focus on her home computer.
The candidate, who once called Abedin “a second daughter,” now refers to her as “one of my staffers.”