Column: Under Trump, the media rediscovers its purpose
Only hours into his new job, White House press secretary Sean Spicer attacked the media for what he called “dishonesty” and “deliberately false reporting.” He specifically challenged the reporting that said President Donald Trump’s inauguration had a smaller audience than the inaugurations of President Barack Obama and that Trump removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.
Many in the media counterattacked and accused Spicer of peddling “falsehoods,” one even nicknaming him “Baghdad Sean,” likening him to Saddam Hussein’s information minister, “Baghdad Bob,” who blithely assured Iraqis that all was well as that country fell to U.S. troops in 2003. Left-wing pundits on cable said things like, “How do you cover an administration that has such a casual relationship with the truth?”
The answer is quite simple. Just do as you did when President Obama peddled falsehood after falsehood for the last eight years.
Obama, for example, said many times that he was “most proud” of “saving the American economy.” He even made this assertion during press conferences, when reporters could have challenged him. Last year, he expanded his “most proud” resume to include “saving the world economy from a great depression.”
Did the media inform the public that recoveries always follow recessions, and that, had Obama done nothing, history shows the recovery would have been more robust than what we experienced under Obama? The average recovery, for the last eight recessions dating back to 1960, is 3.9 percent inflation-adjusted annual GDP growth. Obama’s recovery, which began after the recession ended in June 2009, averaged 2.1 percent. President Ronald Reagan’s averaged 4.8 percent, which translates, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore when he calculated it in 2015, into a per-family average of $20,000 more in income. An increase of 1 percent growth in GDP brings roughly 1 million more jobs. So had Obama done nothing, history suggests there would have been 13 million more jobs than were created during Obama’s recovery.
When Obama first said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” one could argue that he did not deceive, since the plan was not fully fleshed out. But after the administration began writing the regulations, it soon became clear that one could not keep his or her doctor or plan. Still Obama continued to say, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Did a suddenly aggressive media hold Obama accountable for knowingly pushing a falsehood?
Obama got a pass for pulling all the troops out of Iraq. Not only did he do so against the advice of his entire national security team; he then pushed the whopper that his predecessor, President George W. Bush, tied his hands. Incredibly, Obama, who reneged on defense deals negotiated between Bush and Poland and the Czech Republic, claimed that Bush’s status of forces agreement required him to pull completely out of Iraq – and by the Bush-set timetable. No, it did not. Bush’s deal envisioned that his successor would negotiate a stay-behind force, something that Obama clearly could have done if he so chose.
Obama also sold Obamacare on a big falsehood that the media never seemed particularly exercised about. On a number of occasions, he claimed that when his mother was dying of cancer her insurance carrier had to be browbeaten into paying her doctor and medical bills. False. All her hospital, medical and doctor bills were paid. The only dispute between Obama’s mother and an insurance carrier was over a disability policy, which she had taken out after having been diagnosed with cancer. Such a policy doesn’t cover a disability caused by a pre-existing condition, and the insurance carrier properly and successfully challenged the claim.
After the 2000 election, The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com introduced what it called the “Homelessness Rediscovery Watch,” to point out that with a Republican in the White House the media would print more stories about the homeless. Now that a Republican – especially one as disliked Donald Trump – is in the White House, the media rediscovers its aggressiveness and zeal to “hold the President accountable.” The New York Times even used the word “lie” in a headline about Trump’s assertion that he would have won the popular vote but for millions who voted illegally.
Welcome back, media. We missed you.