We have been discussing the open bias shown by the media in the last four years. It is not clear if we can regain the ground lost for journalism as even journalism professors call for the rejection of objectivity in favor of advocacy. This has included shielding Joe Biden from any challenging questions during the recent election. That includes the news blackout on reporting on the Hunter Biden scandal, the subject of my column today in the Hill. CNN’s April Ryan personifies this trend. Even as the media is facing widespread criticism for burying the Hunter Biden story (and is now doing the same with the Swalwell scandal), Ryan lashed out at confidential sources responsible for leaking a recording of Joe Biden making embarrassing comments about the “defund the police” movement. Ryan is demanding to know who is responsible for allowing the embarrassing comments to be made public despite her past enthusiastic discussion of such leaks against President Donald Trump.
President-elect Biden lashed out at the “defund the police” movement this week in a meeting with civil rights leaders, stating “That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not.” The recording was obtained by The Intercept.
What I felt was most notable was that Biden said that he would not share his plans for reforming the police until after the Georgia runoff to avoid any backlash from voters. While NBC paraphrased the quote as Biden warning “about getting ‘too far ahead of ourselves’ with critical Senate runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5,” it was more direct and disturbing than that.
Biden stated: “Just think to yourself and give me advice whether we should do that before Jan. 5th, because that’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police.”
It was precisely what Biden did with regard to packing the Supreme Court. He expressly refused to tell voters whether he would support such a plan because it might cost him votes. The key issue in the Georgia runoff is whether, once in control of the Senate, the Democrats would move forward on what are viewed as radical proposals, including sweeping police reforms. Biden’s answer again is not to tell the voters what they have planned.
As I mentioned yesterday, I am not sure when it became acceptable for politicians to expressly refuse to state their intentions and policies until after they are elected. Biden has now twice said that he does not want voters to know in case it might cost votes.
There are a host of issues raised by Biden’s remarks, but Ryan lashed out at the use of such tapes, which are standard in journalism;
“I asked an incoming White House source was the meeting contentious with civil rights leader and @JoeBiden and the answer was ‘no’. A rights leader at the meeting says @JoeBiden was passionate,” Ryan tweeted. “The question is who taped this meeting and why? What is the agenda?”
Ryan then dug herself deeper in responding to what appears a sarcastic response from Vice journalist Edward Ongweso Jr. Orgweso remarked that
“It is irresponsible and sets a dangerous precedent for journalists covering the incoming administration to be able to use secretly recorded conversations in their stories. To parse out Biden’s thoughts and anticipate his policy commitments, you must go through proper channels.
The White House Press Secretary, the spokespeople for the President and Vice President, senior officials (without attribution), and the President’s public statements are all designated and responsible sources for information about the President’s thoughts and intentions.”
Revealing a contradiction between Biden’s private thoughts and public statements is dangerous because it erodes public trust in the President, the Office, and the media itself,
He was trying to state why Ryan’s view of journalism was absurd but, in a telling moment, Ryan agreed with that interpretation of journalism that would make a Stalinist propagandist blush. She responded “You hit the nail in the head! This is not good at all.”
Ongweso Jr. simply responded “Folks… I can’t.”
The fact is that Ryan was just stating what has become the approach of many in the media. As we recently discussed, we are moving dangerously close to a de facto state media with the cooperation of Big Tech companies. Ryan believes that it is outrageous to rely on unapproved material if it is critical of Joe Biden (despite her use of such material for the last four years against Trump).
This week, CNN anchor Kate Bolduan was criticized for wearing a sweater stating “Facts First” as CNN was being criticized for its suppression of the Hunter Biden story and its lack of coverage of the Swalwell scandal. Now one of its most prominent CNN analysts is declaring that journalists should not rely on unapproved material on Biden and that the confidential source for another media organization should be uncovered. CNN has not expressed any disagreement with Ryan’s view of the new journalism.
It is precisely the realization of the call for journalists to dispense with objectivity in favor of open advocacy. What is clear is that, once reporters like Ryan dispense with objectivity, they also substitute it with open hypocrisy.