While I was out over the Christmas holiday, Joe Scarborough became embroiled in a Twitter battle over whether he had “partied” with Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve. While relitigating the details of the dispute would be both belated and superfluous, the larger issues raised deserve some attention.
First, by criticizing fellow journalists for their reporting on this story (Scarborough says he was there on business; not to party), some have suggested Scarborough is contributing to the ruination of the media’a reputation. While it’s true that fewer and fewer people trust us, the media doesn’t need any help discrediting itself. The most recent example is the Washington Post’s claim about Russia hacking our power grid—but there are numerous examples of the press getting it wrong. No need to blame Scarborough for this.
The second point that caught my attention was Scarborough’s suggestion that the controversy was specific to Donald Trump. In other words, when journalists (including Scarborough—who prefers the title “analyst”) rub elbows with Democratic politicians, nobody bats an eye. This point became very clear during Scarborough’s recent interview with CNN’s Dylan Byers:
[Y]ou just cannot say that what we’re doing is any different than what we did in the early years of the Obama administration or what Fareed Zakaria has been doing for eight years with the Obama administration or what Thomas Friedman has been doing for eight years with the Obama administration. Golfing with Barack Obama, going to state dinners with Barack Obama, flying on Air Force One with Barack Obama. …
Can you imagine if I held, if Mika and I held three or four fundraisers for Donald Trump or any of his children right now? That’s what we did for David Axelrod when he was in the White House. Nobody said anything about that other than, “Oh, that’s nice.”
I think that Scarborough has a salient point. Now, in order to be open to this argument, you have to put aside how you might feel about (A) Donald Trump’s past comments and actions, and (B) Scarborough’s treatment of Trump during the GOP primary—treatment that some felt helped boost Trump’s electoral prospects. These are all side issues that have been explored ad nauseam.
The point here is simply that the media has come down with a bad case of Trump derangement syndrome. They have lost the ability to differentiate between the things he says or does that really are beyond the pale, and the things that are within the bound of acceptable behavior. Once you convince yourself that the duly elected PEOTUS is evil and must be stopped at all costs, then anyone else who treats him fairly is guilty of “normalizing” him—and this is a traitorous betrayal.
The best way to preserve the integrity of the media is for media actors to quit beclowning themselves. And one big step in that direction would be to lose the irrational hatred of Donald J. Trump, while simultaneously continuing to rationally and vigorously cover his presidency.