On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, Chuck Todd made an offhand comment about how the White House had lost the messaging war about the Affordable Care Act, essentially admitting that Fox News and the Republicans had been successful at confusing the public to the point that many Americans did not understand it, and that the rest of the media let them get away with it. In making his comments he said,
What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No! It’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.
Inadvertently, Todd put the spotlight on the problem with the news media today. Much of the media simply repeats what each partisan side says, giving essentially equal weight to both sides of the issue, no matter how false or outrageous. For example, Ted Cruz and most Tea Party representatives repeat on television and in social media the lie that the ACA exempted Congress. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact Congressional staff are forced into the healthcare exchanges, a concession to Republicans. The big question has been how to pay for that, since there was no mechanism in federal government employment rules that allowed for reimbursing an employee for healthcare costs. That has stopped Cruz from lying about this several times a day, an assertion upon which he has never been challenged, since he only talks to Fox News. None of the other networks ever take him on for his outright lying. One of the worst offenders has been David Gregory of Meet the Press, who brings on discredited hacks like Newt Gingrich and Bill Kristol, and treats them as if anything they said carried any weight or had any relationship to truth. Chuck Todd often allows the same kind of nonsense and spinning on his own show.
The backlash against Todd’s telling comment has been strong. Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars, started a petition against Todd and wrote on her own blog,
This shouldn’t be hard. Journalists are supposed to inform their audience of facts. When lies are provided for partisan purposes, it is not “doing the job of the White House to sell” a government program to say that these are lies. That’s reporting. That’s journalism. Someone who just repeats what is said to him without placing it in context is called a stenographer, not a journalist.
Nicole continued this morning, calling out both Gregory and Todd for their lack of actual reporting. What really hit home is her description of their approach to news as sports; reporting strategies, moves, and spin rather than the actual facts of the stories they are reporting. Maybe finally we can have the discussion about what a poor job the media does reporting actual news.
It’s long past time for the press to do its job, pushing for the truth and not accepting falsehood as “one position” that can be offset by “another position”, not matter how ridiculous or false. We’re glad to have that conversation.