The liberal bias alarm is sounding. Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, just became the first Latino candidate to win a presidential caucus or primary, and conservatives are complaining that the mainstream media is overlooking the achievement.
"Where is the media on this, right?" Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said Tuesday in an interview on Fox News Channel. "I mean, this is a big deal."
Conservative news outlets have aired the same grievance.
Breitbart News: "For the first time in history, a Hispanic won a presidential primary. But due to the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz is Republican, no one [in] the media dares say so.
Western Journalism: "Ted Cruz's caucus win was historic, as it marks the first time in American history a Hispanic candidate has won a presidential primary contest in any state. With the identity-politics the media purveys, why isn't this being reported as a big, big deal? Why are no media outlets making banner headlines that a Hispanic just won a primary?"
Conservative Angle: "So why isn’t the media throwing confetti when this minority senator achieved another milestone for Hispanics? It's obvious: both Ted Cruz and the third place winner in Iowa, Marco Rubio, are the wrong kind of Latinos. They're Republican. They're conservative."
However, it is fair to say that the media have not heralded the first caucus/primary win by a Latino as a massive breakthrough. The question, then, is whether the press is applying a double standard.
I'm not convinced that it is. We can't say for certain how the media would have reacted to a first-ever win by a Latino Democrat, but we can look at coverage of the first victory by a woman, Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2008, and the first by an African American, Democrat Jesse Jackson in 1984. Was each of those a big deal?
Not really. The prospect of Clinton becoming the first female president was certainly significant, as it is again this year, but there was little hoopla about the specific accomplishment that was her winning the 2008 New Hampshire primary. Check the clips. You'll have a hard time finding so much as a footnote.
The media's focus was on Clinton's rebound after an upset win in Iowa by then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. She had entered the race as the favorite; winning one primary was portrayed not as a huge accomplishment but as just one step along the way.
Jackson, on the other hand, was not seen as a viable threat to win the Democratic nomination — never mind the White House -- against Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan. When he won the 1984 Democratic primary in the District of Columbia — in May, by which time Walter Mondale and Gary Hart were clearly the only real contenders — the media yawned.
I'd even characterize the New York Times' account of Jackson's victory as dismissive. The Times noted the district's "predominantly black and overwhelmingly Democratic electorate" and reported that "Mr. Jackson's opponents virtually conceded him the lead in the popular vote here long before today's primary."
Translation: Jackson's win was no big deal because it was basically handed to him.
Cruz isn't a heavy favorite like Clinton was, nor is he a fringe candidate in the mold of Jackson. The three campaigns are quite different, actually. But in all three cases, their "first-ever" wins have been put in restrained context by the press — signs of progress, to be sure, but nothing to throw a parade over.
Perhaps that's not enough. But it's consistent across party lines.