By Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk
Polls consistently show that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the most unpopular candidates ever to run for president. But it could be worse: They could be members of the media.
It seems everybody’s unhappy with journalism these days. Trump, before reversing course this week, had banned some publications, like The Washington Post, from his rallies, while Clinton supporters say reporters have unfairly blown stories about the Clinton Foundation and the former secretary of state’s health out of proportion.
Is the media doing anything right this cycle? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.
For once, we’ve hit on a bipartisan topic. Republicans hate the media. Democrats hate the media. What’s left to say?
How about this: The media is doing fine.
No, really. Are you mad because the media hasn’t done enough to report on Trump’s unprecedented refusal to release his tax returns? Well, uh, how do you know about that in the first place?
Are you mad because you think journalists haven’t done enough to educate the public about Benghazi or emails or the Clinton Foundation or whatever scandal du jour is plaguing Clinton lately? Where do you think you learned the news?
The honest truth is this: A lot of people are mad at the media these days for not reporting stuff they know about because … somebody in the media reported it.
In fact, this election has seen reporters evolve their craft in smart ways. Previously, “objective” journalists took great pains to present both sides of a story, even when there weren’t always two sides to the truth. In the age of Trump, though, the media is more reluctant to give equal weight to cockamamie half-truths: More often than ever, you see stories that flat-out tell you when a candidate — usually Trump — is telling untruths.
Some Clinton fans are mad because the media continues to scrutinize their candidate when Trump’s sins are clearly worse than hers. And it’s true: Trump is the worst presidential nominee in living memory. But it’s also true that Clinton stands a better-than-even chance of becoming president and should be scrutinized closely. Don’t like that? Tough. That’s the price of the office.
Truth is, any discussion of the media is a hopeless generalization. There are good parts — legacy newspapers like The Washington Post and smart online outlets like BuzzFeed — and bad parts, like pretty much anything that calls itself “cable news.”
But there are a lot of hard-working journalists doing an excellent job of bringing you the truth of this ugly, confounding presidential campaign season. The media is doing fine.
No, the media isn’t doing fine. To understand why, let’s talk about Clinton’s health.
You may have heard Clinton had a four-minute coughing fit on the stump the other day, which she tried to laugh off as a result of being “allergic” to Trump. Look, people have coughing fits all the time. It’s just that not everyone is a 68-year-old woman running for the most important office in the country.
The Clinton campaign would prefer to consign any questions about the former secretary of state’s physical and mental fitness to the realm of vast right-wing conspiracy theorists.
On cue, The Atlantic Monthly declared questions about Clinton’s health to be “The Birtherism of 2016.” David Weigel of The Washington Post pushed a story dismissing Clinton health stories as the work of critics “armed with junk science and old photos.” The Hill newspaper, meantime, published a story this week headlined “Clinton campaign warns media to tread carefully.” No worries there!
”Hillary Clinton’s campaign is working the refs hard when it comes to reports about her health,” the Hill reported.
The real trouble is Trump recently gave a speech in which he declared flatly that Clinton isn’t healthy enough to be president. And if Trump says it, the Clinton campaign wants you to know that it cannot possibly be true.
“Clinton aides and supporters see the healthcare stories as a bunch of baloney, and they want the media to cover it as such,” the Hill story noted.
“The fact of the matter is there is no truth or factual evidence to debunk,” a former Clinton aide told the paper. “She is perfectly healthy.” The unnamed aide is peddling a line — a line that some press people who ought to know better are all too willing to accept.
Chris Cilizza, who writes a daily political blog for The Washington Post, this week called the health issue “totally ridiculous … for lots of reasons.” Three years ago, Cilizza wrote “Clinton will have to answer lots — and lots — of questions about her health if she decides to get into the next race for president.” Why are those questions ridiculous now all of a sudden?
That’s easy. Just look at the polls.