There is an interesting controversy this week after ABC’s Martha Raddatz took Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott to task for public comments about the open Southern border as fueling the crisis. Raddatz is being criticized for her claim that President Joe Biden has never encouraged migrants to come over the border — a statement that many objected to as demonstrably false. However, I am more interested in a different aspect of her remarks: the objection to Abbott’s language. It is the type of objection that one finds from a system of state media where the narrative is supposed to be replicated and uniform.
Abbott has criticized the Biden administration’s “open-border policies” and Raddatz immediately objected to that language in her interview:
You talk about the border wall, you talk about open borders, I don’t think I’ve ever heard President Biden say, ‘We have an open border, come on over.” But people I have heard say it are you, are former President Trump, Ron DeSantis. That message reverberates in Mexico and beyond. So, they do get the message that it is an open border.”
Critics immediately pointed out past Biden comments criticized as seemingly encouraging such border crossers: “They deserve to be heard. That’s who we are. We’re a nation that says, ‘If you want to flee, and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come.’”
They also point out that Raddatz herself was told by one border crosser that he “basically” made the trip because Biden was elected.
However, it was the objection to the use of divergent language that was equally striking. ABC and other mainstream media sites have been accused of echoing the narrative of the Biden Administration and largely ignoring (until recently) the crisis at the southern border. Those who raise the issue have been denounced as exaggerating or inventing a crisis.
Raddatz’s interview is reminiscent of the interview by Leslie Stahl on CBS with former President Donald Trump where she shutdown Trump referring to the spying on this campaign by declaring that there is no evidence of such spying. There was already ample evidence of such spying, but Stahl simply told viewers that it was untrue.
The Raddatz interview raises again the danger of a de facto state media where media echoes the position of the government by choice rather than coercion. Her objection was that Abbott and others keep referring to a crisis when the Administration and mainstream media do not use such terms. As a journalist, she is objecting to a public official in a border state calling out a crisis as thousands pour over his border on a daily basis.
Raddatz’s objection was notably virtually identical to the talking point put out by the White House. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has declared “It would be wrong to think the border is open. It is not open.” She added “anyone who suggests otherwise is simply doing the work of these smugglers who, again, are spreading misinformation which is very dangerous.”
It is unclear what Raddatz is suggesting. Was the governor of Texas supposed to stop responding to the outcry of border cities to the massive influx? Was he supposed to insist that the border is not open as videos show hundreds just walking over the border?
Raddatz is an accomplished journalist and I have great respect for her career. We can all craft questions or comments poorly. However, the concern is that this interview occurred in the context of ABC and other networks steadfastly ignoring the growing crisis at the border.