I have previously written how the level of advocacy and bias has created a danger of a de facto state media in the United States. It is possible to have such a system by consent rather than coercion. Given that long concern, a letter drafted by the Biden White House Legal Counsel’s Office was striking in a call for major media to “ramp up their scrutiny” of House Republicans “for opening an impeachment inquiry based on lies.”
The message is curious and concerning, particularly in the aggressive role being played by the White House Counsel’s office under Stuart Frank Delery.
First, as I have previously noted, the White House is now actively involved in pushing narratives and denying factual allegations linked to the Biden corruption scandal. That could create Nixonian-type allegations of the abuse of office in the use of federal employees to counter impeachment efforts.
Second, the letter was drafted by Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office. So White House lawyers are now enlisting the media in a counter media campaign against impeachment? The letter removes any pretense of separation between the Biden personal legal team and the White House Counsel’s office. Sams has been the most aggressive White House official in actively swatting down allegations of corruption as well as the President’s documents investigation.
Third, the letter calls for the media to actively support the White House account. The draft of the letter is a call for what I have previously criticized as “advocacy journalism” where reporters frame stories to advance their own viewpoints or values.
Sams wrote “[c]overing impeachment as a process story – Republicans say X, but the White House says Y – is a disservice to the American public who relies on the independent press to hold those in power accountable.” In other words, media should (and it has for years) decline to give equal attention to allegations against the Bidens and instead tell the public what the truth is.
It is a call for media to tailor the coverage to push the position of the White House against this effort to ramp up the investigation into corruption. It is an approach that is already embraced by many in the media. That was evident in the meltdown of Washington Post columnist Philip Bump recently when he was confronted by countervailing evidence in the Biden scandals. Before storming out, Bump chastised the interviewer for not just taking his work as the “putative expert” and said that he had enough “because you don’t listen to the press. I’m sitting here and I’m telling you, you’re wrong about these things, and you don’t listen, and you continue to insist upon things that are, you know, parsing of language.”
That appears the approach pushed by Sams, who specifically references Facebook and Fox as enemies of the truth: “in the modern media environment, where every day liars and hucksters peddle disinformation and lies everywhere from Facebook to Fox, process stories that fail to unpack the illegitimacy of the claims on which House Republicans are basing all their actions only serve to generate confusion, put false premises in people’s feeds, and obscure the truth.”
The letter has an uncomfortable feeling of marching orders to the media. This is a media that followed the lead of Biden associates in spreading the false story that the Hunter laptop was Russian disinformation.
This is the media that refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the laptop until only recently — long after the presidential election.
This was the media that only recently admitted that President Biden has been lying about denials related to his son’s influence peddling.
Yet, the White House is now calling for the media to again form the wagons around the President and attack the impeachment effort as it did the laptop and the corruption investigation.
Once again, what is most disturbing is that the White House shows no reluctance or concern in making such an open pitch to the press. There is a sense of license in using the media as an extension of the White House press push. The fact that this is a representative of the White House counsel’s office is particularly chilling. This is not the press office but the counsel for the President calling on media to form a unified front against the Republicans and the impeachment inquiry.
The letter is an alarming erosion of separation of the White House Counsel’s office from the Biden defense team. It also confirms an active and aggressive role of White House officials in swatting down allegations against the President. While the staff obviously is not expected to be neutral on impeachment, there is a careful line that past White House counsels have walked between fulfilling their duties to the office as opposed to the officeholder.