The request comes after Giuliani made his usual Sunday rounds to push Trump’s interests. On ABC’s “This Week,” he defended his scandal-mongering on behalf of the president over Ukraine, the center of a full-blown scandal that crystallized over the past week. Giuliani has attempted to convince the country that when Joe Biden served as vice president, he sought and secured the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor — Viktor Shokin — who was pursuing a case against an energy company, Burisma Holdings, where his son Hunter Biden served on the board of directors. As the New York Times reported in May — and other outlets have confirmed — there’s no evidence to that effect. In fact, the reporting points in the other direction — that Joe Biden was acting in accordance with an international consensus, not to mention a well-cemented position within the U.S. government and that Shokin wasn’t actively pursuing Burisma at the time in any case.
As Giuliani put forth his arguments, ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos tried to confine him to the facts. That was hard. Example:
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, you -- you've gotten those charges out there. Let’s talk about --GIULIANI: No, no, I haven’t gotten them out there.STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have gotten them out there.GIULIANI: No, I haven’t.
Huh? Giuliani has been all over cable news, all over the networks, all over The Hill and other outlets. In an insta-famous interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Giuliani insta-contradicted himself, one moment saying that he didn’t ask Ukraine to investigate Biden, then next moment affirming that he had indeed.
Whether it’s Cuomo or Stephanopoulos or CBS News’s Margaret Brennan, all of Giuliani’s interviewers prepare themselves for his tacks, his evasions, his falsehoods. On this front, the Biden campaign’s letter credits the news organizations: “While you have been aggressive in pushing back on him in real time, it is well known that the dedicated liar always has the advantage, pushing out outlandish falsehoods and disinformation in the knowledge that it is hard for the corrections to catch up,” notes the letter from the Biden campaign.
In this vein, the Biden letter merges with a million pleas from social media users dating to the onset of the Trump presidential period. This crowd pleaded with cable-news networks, particularly CNN, to scale back live broadcasts of Trump’s 2016 campaign rallies; they spoke up again over Sean Spicer’s lie-heavy White House briefings, as well as those of his successor, Sarah Sanders; they shouted down the falsehoods so routinely spouted by Trump surrogates wherever they popped up on television. And, of course, they spoke up about the president himself, whose penchant for lies and stray falsehoods outpaced the frantic efforts of well-meaning journalists scouring source documents.
None of it has worked. The commitment of mainstream news outlets to shop for input from both sides — no matter the ethical failings of one — is decades old. Executives in TV news have grown gray swearing by this maxim, one that had never been meaningfully challenged before the accession of Trump. The perils of this approach, by contrast, are just a few years in the making. Though the Trump period feels old and tired and rote, its core challenge to journalism is still fresh.
The Biden campaign letter is a well-phrased appeal that will in all likelihood go nowhere. Interviews with Giuliani, after all, begin with viral potential that most segments don’t pack. Cuomo’s tete-a-tete with the Trump lawyer this month, for example, will fit nicely into his career highlights. Swearing off a guest of this sort won’t happen just because he befouls your network’s air. To take a quote from the Biden campaign letter: “Giuliani is not enlightening your viewers in any way. He’s not offering a unique or informed perspective.”
As if those have ever been booking criteria for TV news outlets.