White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has taken to the briefing room podium twice this week. Both times, she has come loaded for bear with a list of grievances.
Recognizing the moment is charged because of the verbal abuse CNN reporter Jim Acosta received at a Trump rally this week — and knowing she was likely be asked about Ivanka Trump disagreeing with her father having labeled the news media the “enemy of the American people” — Sanders wanted to be ready. Rather than dealing with the issues at hand, she instead read from prepared statements and listed the media's sins.
The problem: Her arguments showed exactly why the media is so hard on the Trump White House — and rightfully so.
On Wednesday, it was an allegation that the media effectively damaged the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s, by disclosing classified information about his use of a satellite phone. Except that claim had long ago been debunked — and the media didn't even disclose that it was being used for surveilling the al-Qaeda leader.
On Thursday, with Acosta pressing Sanders on whether she thinks the media is the American people's foe, she opted to list the cases in which she personally has been allegedly wronged by the media. Except, again, her evidence was lacking.
“The media has attacked me personally on a number of occasions, including your own network — said I should be harassed as a life sentence, that I should be choked,” Sanders said. She added: “When I was hosted by the [White House] Correspondents' Association, of which almost all of you are members of, you brought a comedian up to attack my appearance and call me a traitor to my own gender.”
Let's break it down, piece by piece.
The media “said I should be harassed as a life sentence”
Nobody said Sanders should be harassed as a life sentence.
This refers to a TV appearance from Washington Post opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin. Rubin was actually saying that declining to serve Sanders at the Red Hen restaurant wasn't a fruitful course of action and that people should protest instead. Rubin said nothing directly about people “harassing” Sanders, although she did say being “uncomfortable” should be a “life sentence” for Sanders, for “lying” and “inciting” people against the press.
The media said “that I should be choked”
Nobody advocated for Sanders being choked.
This, like the Rubin example, again relies on a quite uncharitable version of events from conservative media. MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace (whose show I have appeared on, full disclosure) didn't call for choking Sanders, but instead asked a reporter if she ever wanted to “wring” Sanders's neck out of frustration. Wallace apologized for the choice of words, which again was hardly a call to action.
“When I was hosted by the [White House] Correspondents' Association . . . you brought a comedian up to attack my appearance and call me a traitor to my own gender”
Nobody asked a comedian to say these things — and in fact many of the reporters Sanders tags with this incident denounced that same comedian.
This refers to the Michelle Wolf incident, and Sanders makes it sound as though the press tasked Wolf with ridiculing her. Whatever you think of inviting left-leaning comedians to speak to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner — and there are compelling reasons for it to be avoided — Wolf's jokes about Sanders's eye makeup and her demeanor were actually criticized by prominent journalists including members of the White House press corps, most notably by the New York Times's Maggie Haberman. When Sanders says Wolf was brought up “to attack my appearance and call me a traitor to my own gender,” she's inferring motive where there was none and actually bringing up something that liberals used to attack the media for being too soft on Sanders.
The media is hardly above criticism, and should never be. The question is whether it's fair to go so far as to call it the enemy of the people. That clearly makes Ivanka Trump uncomfortable, but apparently not Sanders.
It's also a bit rich to lodge complaints about the media when your own arguments are so inaccurate. If these are the best examples Sanders has, it suggests she doesn't have much of a hand to play. Sanders regularly accuses the media of being shoddy with the facts; she should dislodge the plank from her own eye.