There is nothing new about the national media downplaying stories that lend support to conservative arguments. If a firearm is used to prevent a lethal crime, or unethical activity is uncovered at a liberal institution, the media goes to great lengths to make sure no one notices. But since Obama’s election, the media has also been downplaying stories that lend support to liberal arguments — when those stories have the potential to damage the Obama presidency. This is the case even for stories that under normal circumstances would have remained on newspapers’ front pages until they were seared into the national consciousness. To the media, there is no higher calling than protecting Obama.
With the election approaching, I thought it would be a good time to review the top four stories the media has sacrificed to protect the president:
1. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Many people are surprised to learn that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is considered by environmentalists to be the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Sure, the spill received a fair deal of media attention, but nowhere near the level of coverage that would be expected from a disaster of such magnitude. What’s more, as the weeks passed and the scale of the disaster grew, the media’s coverage of it declined.
Even Van Jones, a former White House adviser, admits that liberals held their tongues for the purpose of protecting Obama:
You’ve never seen the environmental movement more quiet during an oil spill. I guarantee you, if John McCain had been president with that oil spill, or George Bush had been president with that oil spill, I’d have been out there with a sign protesting.
Indeed, this story had everything the liberal media could dream of: Big Oil, environmental disaster, and a president who was initially trying very hard to ignore the spill. It even had a connection to the ultimate liberal boogeyman, Halliburton! Under a different president, the media would have treated this story like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Hurricane Katrina, and the Enron scandal … combined.
2. Due Process-Free Executions. Reporters and pundits were outraged when they discovered that the Bush administration had authorized the wiretapping of phone lines of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. The way the media saw it, wiretapping without first obtaining a warrant was an affront to the Constitution and a total dismantling of our civil liberties. Any possible national security interest in obtaining immediate surveillance of terror suspects was far outweighed by our rights to due process.
On the other hand, when Obama announced that he had executed a U.S. citizen without due process, the media didn’t seem to have much problem with it. If anything, they were mostly supportive. Those very constitutional principles which, according to the media, so easily trumped the need to listen in on phone conversations were suddenly not too important when the president was giving the order to put someone to death.
As noted civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald put it:
That the same party and political faction that endlessly shrieked about Bush’s eavesdropping and detention programs now tolerate Obama’s execution program is one of the most extreme and craven acts of dishonesty we’ve seen in quite some time.
After watching the media do a complete about-face on the importance of national security once Obama came into office, it’s probably safe to conclude that if Obama decided to reinstate waterboarding, the national media would give him a pass on that as well.
3. The Poverty Rate. When a Republican is in the White House, the media can never report enough stories about poverty, which many of the liberals in the media believe is a symptom of conservative economic policies. But now that Obama is in the White House, the media is paying as little attention as possible to the poverty rate, which is higher than it’s been in decades.
4. WikiLeaks. Poor Julian Assange. Had he only released those classified government documents prior to Obama taking office, he would have been heralded by the media as an international hero: a man who risked his life and freedom to expose government misdeeds and speak truth to power. It would have been “Pentagon Papers Part II.”
But because it was Obama who was running the War on Terror at the time of these leaks, the mainstream media had no use for any information that could cause problems for the president. They immediately moved to downplay any potentially damaging or embarrassing releases. Instead of the hero’s welcome Assange most likely expected, he was vilified.
If it wasn’t already enough for Assange that the information in these leaks was characterized by the media as “unimportant,” soon after the leaks, he was brought up on sexual assault charges by Swedish authorities. What’s more, for the first time in almost a decade, the media suddenly became concerned about how releasing confidential material could put the lives of U.S. operatives at risk.
Assange learned the hard way that, these days, the only national security leaks the media finds acceptable are those portraying Obama as a Bin Laden-killing, Iran-nuclear-reactor-sabotaging superhero.
Over the past four years, the media has gone to a lot of trouble to protect Obama. Expect them to pull out all of the stops this election season. After all, they can’t allow their efforts to go to waste.
Mendy Finkel is a corporate attorney practicing in New York. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School.