As the recent presidential debate showed, the trusty old media-bashing tactic of Republican candidates was alive and well, and this season it is pushing into over-drive with a zest that would make Spiro Agnew cheer. While the candidates' harsh words for the reporters covering them brought the usual applause from the party's base, it's utter nonsense.
At the CNBC debate last week, the level of mendacity and hypocrisy that some of the candidates directed toward the media was stunning.
One example was Ted Cruz's summation of the CNN Democratic debate:
Cruz: The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, "Which of you is more handsome and why?"
At the Oct. 13 Democratic debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Hillary Clinton about her switching positions on immigration, the trade deal and same-sex marriage, and whether this shows she is unprincipled. Then he asked her whether she should have seen Benghazi coming, and if her dismissal of her private emails was callous.
Cooper pointed out to Bernie Sanders that half the county wouldn't elect a socialist, that he honeymooned in the Soviet Union and was a conscientious objector, which raised questions about how he could be an effective commander-in-chief. And Cooper noted that Denmark, which Sanders held up as an ideal, was a lot smaller than the U.S.
Previously, during the Aug. 6 Fox News GOP debate, no Republican candidate (except Donald Trump) whined about tough questions - even though there were plenty of those. Fox's Brett Baier asked Jeb Bush if we needed yet another Bush in the White House. Megyn Kelly highlighted Ben Carson's ignorance about basic governmental facts. And famously, she skewered Trump on his views about women.
Bottom line: If any journalists other than Fox ones ask tough questions, they are biased liberals.
As I have posted in the past, this is all evidence of a cynical Republican ploy to rev up the base (which has been taught by GOP propaganda to hate the media) and to give themselves cover. Don't like the question? Shriek about biased liberal media. So we have Marco Rubio complaining that the Democrats have their own super PAC, "the mainstream media."
It scarcely matters that the caricature of journalists as committed liberals is absurd. Conservative media bashers love to trot out surveys that show journalists prefer Democrats and liberals. A recent Indiana University poll found that only 7% of journalists identify as Republicans.
Gee, that must mean that the rest are Democrats, right? Um, no. Actually 28% are Democrats. Half are independents with a smattering naming "other." (I'm typical: I'm a moderate and independent, and I've voted for both parties.) Trouble is, only a fraction of these folks cover politics. The rest: sportswriters, copy editors, movie critics, whatever.
Given the increased orthodoxy on the Republican side, there's little surprise that more news people opt for Democrats than Republicans. Journalists don't do orthodoxy very well. And say what you want, Democrats are mostly a theme-less pudding, not a coherent belief system.
What the haters don't get is that journalists, and particularly political reporters, aren't political. You will seldom find a political discussion in a newsroom that ranges beyond the theater of elections. In the debate, Cruz stated that none of the moderators would be voting in a Republican primary. Well, they likely wouldn't cast ballots in a Democratic primary either.
If the Cruz fantasy were true, and reporters tilt their coverage to benefit Democrats, why does Hillary Clinton get such bad press? Guess who broke the story in March that Clinton used her personal email account for State Department business? Rush Limbaugh? Laura Ingraham? Marco Rubio?
No, that would be the New York Times. Perhaps they didn't get the memo.