Off the Cuff: December 2012

Election 2012 proved that our mainstream media's credibility is in serious trouble, and the New York Times lead the charge.

“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” —Oscar Wilde

The biggest loser in the last election was the mainstream media, led by the New York Times. The media’s credibility has been undermined to the point that it will take years to recover and regain the confidence of the American public, which is devastating. Especially to the Times, our last true paper of record. Published every morning on the East Coast, its news and editorial positions wash over the country like a giant wave. It is read avidly by everyone in media, as well as most leaders in business and politics—so it sets both the news and editorial agendas for the nation.

And for better than a century, the Times has defined itself as our prime source of high-minded journalism, a pursuit of the truth. My, how things have changed. The Times and so much of the media fell hopelessly in love with Barack Obama four years ago; the romanticized view of the President led the press to highlight anything that reflected positively on him and to ignore or bury anything that would show him in an unpleasant light. Remember his race-baiting minister, Jeremiah Wright, the left-wing activist Van Jones, and the troubled community-action organization ACORN? All of those Obama associations were swept under the rug.

Even worse, the deception of the American public kept right on, straight through this past election season—keeping the romance alive, after all, requires turning a blind eye to unpleasant truths. The Times coverage of the murders at the American embassy in Benghazi is a prime example. The Obama administration clung for two weeks to the false report that there was a protest outside the American embassy—thereby also clinging to the notion that the attack was spontaneous and not planned by al Qaeda. The Times finally admitted in print that its reporters had been told early on by Libyan guards at the Benghazi compound that streets were quiet before the attack, yet the paper stuck to the administration’s protest story for those two weeks.

Moreover, this biased coverage of the President has allowed him to remain an enigma. A recent book by longtime political journalist Bob Woodward on 2011’s budget crisis sheds surprising light on the President’s status among other power brokers. Woodward reports, for example, on a phone call that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got from the President in early 2009; Pelosi was working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on details of the stimulus package, and she put President Obama on speakerphone. But as the President delivered a sermon about saving the economy, Pelosi hit the mute button so that she and Reid could hear the President but he couldn’t hear them, as they kept right on crunching stimulus numbers.

It’s significant when Congressional members of his own party tune out the President. But we’d never read that in the Times, or in most of the mainstream media. Because most of the media cannot accept anything that would diminish Barack Obama’s image.

Led by the Times, the media fell hard for President Obama, deceived itself, and ended up deceiving the rest of us. When they fail to deliver our President’s blemishes as well as his positive attributes, great damage is done.

Cynicism is now widespread; many people I talk to are skeptical that the media is a place to learn the hard truth about anything. I wish I could tell them they’re wrong.