By tomorrow night we’ll likely know the name of the next president. But we already know the loser in this election cycle: political reporters. They’ve disgraced themselves. Conservatives have long complained about liberal bias in the media, and with some justification. But it has finally reached the tipping point. Not in our lifetimes have so many in the press dropped the pretense of objectivity in order to help a political candidate. The media are rooting for Barack Obama. They’re not hiding it.
Consider Benghazi. An American consulate is destroyed and a US ambassador murdered at a time when the president is boasting at every campaign stop that he has crushed al-Qaida. In an effort not to disrupt this narrative, the White House and the Obama campaign spend weeks claiming the incident was merely a protest over a video, rather than a real terror attack. Then intelligence surfaces showing just the opposite: The killers in Benghazi were no street mob, and Obama knew as much from the beginning.
Imagine if George W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton, had tried something like this during a re-election campaign. The howls from journalists would have been deafening, and unceasing. Instead, Obama has enjoyed every benefit of every doubt from the press every step of the way. Candy Crowley even broke character in the middle of a presidential debate to defend him. From their retirement, former presidents must be looking on in envious bewilderment.
For Obama, treatment like this is standard. Remember his last press conference? On August 20, the president made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room. (Obama has held fewer press conferences even than George W. Bush.) The first question went to Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press. Here’s what Kuhnhenn asked, in full and unedited:
“Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for being here. You’re no doubt aware of the comments that the Missouri Senate candidate, Republican Todd Akin, made on rape and abortion. I wondered if you think those views represent the views of the Republican Party in general. They’ve been denounced by your own rival and other Republicans. Are they an outlier or are they representative?”
In other words: Just how horrible are your opponents? That’s not a question. That’s an assist.
Most telling of all, nobody in the press corps seemed to find Kuhnhenn’s suck-up remarkable, much less objectionable. Reporters who push Obama for actual answers, meanwhile, find themselves scorned by their peers — as we discovered the hard way when our White House reporter dared ask Obama an unapproved question during a presidential statement in the Rose Garden. Months later, longtime Newsweek correspondent Jonathan Alter confronted us on the street and became apoplectic, literally yelling and shaking and drawing a crowd, over the exchange. His complaint: our reporter was “rude” to Obama.
Yep. Good reporters occasionally are impolite, especially to people in power who refuse to answer legitimate questions about their own policies. We don’t hire for table manners. We hire for persistence and toughness and the ability to spot a story among the fluff. We’re traditional that way. It’s the legacy media that have changed.
Earlier this year, we caught the left-wing nonprofit Media Matters coordinating with the White House to attack news organizations, among them Fox and The Daily Caller. We discovered internal Media Matters memos detailing plans to harass reporters, including at their homes. You’d think some in the media would recognize this for what it was — an attempt by politicians to subvert the press — and express outrage. You’d be mistaken.
Last month we found previously unseen video of then-Senator Barack Obama accusing the U.S. government of racism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Even before our story appeared, liberal reporters tried to minimize and discredit it. Sam Feist, the Washington bureau chief at CNN, even boasted that his network had had possession of the tape for years, apparently unaware that some might wonder why they had never aired it.
We could go on. The point is that many in the press are every bit as corrupt as conservatives have accused them of being. The good news is, it’s almost over. The broadcast networks, the big daily newspapers, the newsweeklies — they’re done. It’s only a matter of time, and everyone who works there knows it. That may be why so many of them seem tapped out, lazy and enervated, unwilling to stray from the same tired story lines. Some days they seem engaged only on Twitter, where they spend hours preening for one another and sneering at outsiders.
By the next presidential cycle most of these people will be gone. They’ll have moved on to academia or think tanks or Democratic senate campaigns, or wherever aging hacks go when their union contracts finally, inevitably get voided. They’ll be replaced by a vibrant digital marketplace filled with hungry young reporters who care more about breaking stories than maintaining access to some politician or regulator.
All of this was probably inevitable, but it came faster than expected. Through their dishonesty the legacy media hastened their own end. Their moral authority has evaporated. So has their business model. Wave them goodbye on the way out.