Public trust in the media has hit an all-time-low in polling and the reason was evident this week with controversies over partisan and erroneous pieces published by the Washington Post and HuffPost targeting Senators Ted Cruz (R., Tx.) and Tim Scott (R., S.C.). The HuffPost was compelled to take down a tweet falsely accusing Cruz of lying while the Washington Post ran a hit piece on Scott that claimed (but failed) to show false elements to his “cotton to Congress” life story.
Cruz stated that “We had a Republican president, a Republican Senate, and a Republican House. We didn’t do this. We could have … You didn’t see Republicans when we had control of the Senate try to rig the game. You didn’t see us try to pack the Court.”
HuffPost publicly attacked Cruz for lying about court packing in a widely circulated tweet: “Sen. Ted Cruz may have told his biggest lie yet with the claim that Republicans never engaged in court packing when they controlled the White House and Congress.” That is not a lie. Republicans did not attempt to pack the Court.
The HuffPost then went from dishonestly to duplicity by claiming “An earlier version said that Cruz lied about court packing. The dishonesty lies in the claim that Republicans never “rigged the game.”
Rather than admit that they made a false claim, HuffPost insisted it was making a different point after deleting the original point.
Yet, HuffPost continued to call Cruz the “master gaslighter.”
Democrats have struggled to find higher ground as many have called for the packing of the Supreme Court — a move long opposed by the vast majority of Americans. President Joe Biden has refused to denounce court packing. As a result, some have claimed that Republicans have packed the Court by opposing Merrick Garland and holding seats for Republican nominees. That is not packing under any plausible definition of the term. I supported Garland getting a vote in the Senate. However, the Senate has the constitutional authority to vote or not vote on a nominee. (Otherwise, the Democrats would have gone to court to secure an order to force a constitutionally required vote). The HuffPost however claimed that the GOP actually tried court packing.
The fact is that the GOP did not kill the filibuster when they held the majority and did not seek to pack the Court.
The Washington Post had its own embarrassing moment this week with a bizarre piece by Glenn Kessler that suggested that Scott exaggerated his life story of going from a childhood picking cotton to the halls of Congress. The piece promised some hidden lie or exaggeration: “Tim Scott often talks about his grandfather and cotton. There’s more to that tale.” What was disturbing is that the piece was tied directly to Scott being selected to give the response to Biden after his national address — adding to the impression that it was a raw and preemptive hit piece.
When you read the piece, you find nothing. The Post noted that “The tale of his grandfather fits in with a narrative of Scott moving up from humble circumstances to reach a position of political power in the U.S. Senate. But Scott separately has acknowledged that his great-great-grandfather, Lawrence Ware, once owned 900 acres in South Carolina.” The second line does nothing to contradict the statement in the first line. Moreover, the Post goes on to say that it is relying on “the South Carolina census records” but “census data is historically questionable at best — and at times unreliable.”
Kessler’s piece would have been a good foundation for a profile story on Scott and his family history. Instead, it wanted a juggler’s hit on a Republican senator just before he was given a national platform to challenge President Biden.
What is left is a gotcha headline and no support. The Post simply says that the story may be “more complex” than just “cotton to Congress.” It is bizarre. The Post states “Scott’s family history in South Carolina offers a fascinating window into a little-known aspect of history in the racist South following the Civil War and in the immediate aftermath of slavery — that some enterprising Black families purchased property as a way to avoid sharecropping and achieve a measure of independence from White-dominated society.” Ok, then what is the point? It sounds like his family did raise cotton and was enterprising. The most that Kessler can claim is “Scott’s ‘cotton to Congress’ line is missing some nuance, but we are not going to rate his statements.”
“Missing some nuance”?
There is no nuance in the point of the piece what was to sandbag a senator who would be responding to President Biden.
Both of these controversies only magnify criticism that the media often seems to act like a state media, echoing narratives and blocking stories in support of the Administration. In the new model of advocacy journalism, media outlets cater to viewers and readers who want their bias reaffirmed in reporting and coverage. The result is a general drop in viewership or subscriptions and an absolute tanking of trust in the media.
The plunging level of trust reflects the loss of the premier news organizations to a type of woke journalism. We have have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. Even journalists are leading attacks on free speech and the free press. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation.
Now the HuffPost is engaging in open gaslighting to accuse a senator of gaslighting. The irony is lost on readers who simply do not care. They want hit pieces and HuffPost guarantees that they will not be challenged in any way from their hardened viewpoints. The result is that divisions are fueled by the media and the public has no source that is generally trusted as a neutral and honest news source.
It appears at least one reader spotted the problem . . .
As “Big Daddy” might say, there is nothing quite as strong as the smell of media mendacity.