Bozell & Graham Column: Sudden Media Anger at Happy Talk to Dictators

Situational ethics define the liberal media. There is no pursuit of truth. There is only a double standard.

When Barack Obama bowed to dictators in Cuba and Iran, it was “historic” diplomacy. When Donald Trump talks up meeting with autocrats, that’s another dangerous and disgusting sign of his lack of respect for human rights.

The Washington Post front page on May 2 carried this headline: “Praise for strongmen alarms rights advocates: Trump’s vocal affection for totalitarians marks major U.S. policy shift.” Pictures included Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Egypt’s Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, and North Korean crackpot Kim Jong-Un.

So when President Obama launched a Russian “reset” with Vladimir Putin, that was different? When Obama praised Muslim Brotherhood tyrant Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, that was smart?  Did the Post freak out on the front page in 2008 when candidate Obama stared down Hillary Clinton and said he would talk to dictatorial regimes, that refusing to talk is “ridiculous”?

You won’t find the Washington Post headline on “Obama’s vocal affection for totalitarians.”  

What about the media’s happy talk for murdering brutes? Go back a few months to Fidel Castro’s death. “Revolutionary remade Cuba,” oozed the Post headline. Their obit gushed he was “a romantic figure in olive-drab fatigues and combat boots” and a “spiritual beacon for the world’s political far left.” The New York Times preferred “fiery apostle of revolution.”

Do we really need to revisit the media’s opportunistic tendency to kiss dictatorial rings to gain access for softball interviews? Should we have to recall Scott Pelley celebrating the ethics of  Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Dan Rather babbling to Saddam Hussein, or 20 different anchors lauding Fidel Castro to his face?

Nevertheless, CNN anchorman Jake Tapper opened his show on May 1 with blazing snark: “The world according to Trump: journalists are the enemies of the people, but he would be honored to meet Kim Jong-Un....President Trump today saying he would be honored to meet where North Korea's despotic dictator under the right circumstances. And that's not the first maniacal and murderous strongman he's opened up to in the past day.”

Trump called the current North Korean tyrant a “pretty smart cookie,” and Tapper offered a rebuttal: “Kim Jong-Un had his uncle murdered. That doesn't make Kim Jong-un a smart cookie. That makes him a murderer.”

This on the network that confessed it squashed tales or torment and murder for years in order to keep its Baghdad bureau, to distribute only "news" that was acceptable to that great humanitarian, Saddam Hussein.

Here's another CNN blast from the past. In June 1994, Jimmy Carter went to Pyongyang and hugged North Korean despot Kim Il-Sung. Here’s how CNN anchor Frank Sesno summarized it: “Jimmy Carter, Korean peacemaker! Did his trip to Korea reduce the threat of war?” Carter even called the Stalinesque dictator the “Great Leader” without getting scalded.

And let us not forget CNN was founded by Ted Turner, who himself did embarrassing interviews with “murderous strongman” Fidel Castro and broadcast a documentary in 1988 called “Portrait of the Soviet Union” that fawned over the communist revolution with lines like this howler: “Once, the Kremlin was the home of czars. Today, it belongs to the people.”

Tapper concluded his commentary by quoting Ronald Reagan, that “a violation of human rights anywhere is the business of free people everywhere.” That sounds great. But that same press fought Reagan tooth and nail in his day, assaulting him for being a crazy Red-baiting warmonger for statements like that.

It’s good for journalists in free countries to question leaders about their commitment to advocating human rights instead of pragmatically enabling dictators. Unfortunately, our media display a reflexive habit of questioning only Republican presidents. The Carters, Clintons, and Obamas skate free. 

Brent Bozell's picture


Tim Graham's picture