The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The media figured it out, just in the nick of time

Vice President Pence and President Trump at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., on Sept. 30. (Evan Vucci/AP)

For nearly three years, the mainstream media have struggled to cover a president who lies compulsively (over 12,000 times), cares virtually nothing for the nitty-gritty of governance, sycophantically ingratiates himself with dictators and is remarkably ignorant (for any adult, let alone a president). The unwarranted presumption of good faith extended to President Trump at times has driven the media to underplay or ignore Trump’s outrageous lies. It has prompted some outlets to print laughable headlines and some producers to put on air over and over again unrepentant liars will to say anything to defend the president.

Just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Trump’s conduct leaves the House no option but to pursue the facts to impeachment, the mainstream media seems to have collectively decided they no longer going to pretend the Trump conspiratorialists have “a view” or that some facts (e.g., former vice president Joe Biden’s conduct regarding Ukraine) are still to be explored. No, conspiratorialists are spinning lies (e.g., the Democratic National Committee’s server is in Ukraine, the CIA and FBI in concert with allies worked to prevent Trump’s election), and certain allegations have been disproved, so further propagation amounts to lying.

We saw the “Let’s come to our senses” attitude on several of the Sunday shows. There was NBC’s Chuck Todd shouting down Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-Wis.) who was peddling Fox News propaganda:

Likewise, on “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos was in no mood to let Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) air nonsense accusations or pretend the president was “joking” about inviting China to meddle in our election.

And finally, Jake Tapper was unequivocal in his explanation after clips in which Republicans dissembled to correct the record. (“And to be clear, as I said earlier in the show, the Ukrainian prosecutor general says he has no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.") He summed up:

From the moment that Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy began his smear campaign in February 1950 up until his censure by the U.S. Senate in 1954. The story of McCarthy was not just the story of indecency, and lies, and law breaking. It was also the story about just how much Republican lawmakers were willing to take. After all, many of them knew that what McCarthy was doing wasn’t just wrong, it was corrupting the nation, but they were afraid of him turning his sights on them. They feared the wrath of his political power. You know, when you go back and read about that period, what really stands out is how much McCarthy’s contemporaries are judged today by how they handled him. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, Republican of Maine, a hero of the current Senator Susan Collins of Maine, had a long trailblazing career but her obituary in “The Washington Post” referred to her moment standing up to McCarthy, her Declaration of Conscience in 1950 as her finest moments in politics.Conversely stands the example of Ohio Senator Bob Taft, the Senate majority leader who knew better. He ones called McCarthy reckless and McCarthy’s charges bunked, but Taft essential ended up casting his lot in with the smear artist from Wisconsin. . . .
There are empirical wrongs in the world. Smearing innocent people is one of them. Using your political office to force foreign nations to dig up dirt on your political opponents is another one. That is not what foreign policy is for. You know this. I know this. And I would bet that most Republicans on Capitol Hill know this. They would do well to remember the lessons of Senators Smith and Taft, because history will one day come looking for them, too. She will want to know what they said and did during this time. She will likely not be in a forgiving mood.
After news of a new whistleblower broke Oct. 6, Republicans slammed the media, and Democrats urged their colleagues to stop defending President Trump. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

This is not “bias” or “taking sides." It is ending the false equivalence and the unearned respect for a president whose deceitful excuses change on an hour-by-hour basis.

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I have but a few suggestions going forward. First, Trump’s son-in-law and daughter have made tens of millions of dollars while serving in the White House. This is a gargantuan scandal that should be followed and explored. Simply because Trump has raised falsehoods about an opponent’s child is no reason to ignore his own family racket. Indeed, looking into this is more essential than ever. Second, in addition to cutting off Republicans in the middle of provably false spin, interviewers should confront them as to why they think it is acceptable to persist in trafficking in loony conspiracy theories. Challenge them again and again as to whether it is morally and constitutionally acceptable to solicit election help from foreign governments. If not, why are they not joining the calls for impeachment? Third, it is time to confront Attorney General William P. Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who know quite well that Russia’s interference in the 2016 is not debatable. (If it is, then former CIA director Pompeo is part of the conspiracy.) The CIA, FBI and career civil servants who serve under them know they are chasing phantoms. Have Barr and Pompeo justify using the corruption of our foreign policy to aid Trump’s reelection prospects.

The impeachment process is working as it should. The House is investigating and assembling more than enough information to sustain articles of impeachment. Now the media must should refuse to provide cover for deluded Republicans. Instead, journalists must hold those in power accountable and uncover and convey the truth. As Tapper said, “There are empirical wrongs in the world.” It’s good to see both Democratic lawmakers and respectable journalists say so.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Sunday wrap: Republicans’ pathetic excuses get shot down

Fred Hiatt: It’s not news that Trump is corrupt. What’s new is how he is succeeding in corrupting our government.

David Ignatius: For Trump, Ukraine is a story of personal resentment and political opportunism

Jennifer Rubin: How you know Trump is in a full panic

Megan McArdle: One day, the Trump superpower of his shameless self-regard may fail him