Who can forget when the media spent endless days of outrage hyperventilating that Republicans would “shutdown the government” in 2013? Well the media had quite the opposite reaction Monday when Democrats threatened to do the same thing, not even two months into Trump’s presidency.
In a letter to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell Monday, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other top Democrats warned Republicans that they would obstruct any budget that allowed funding for a border wall or took away funding from the EPA, before the current resolution to fund the government is up April 28.
Schumer has made similar threats in recent months. Dem. Chris Coons even touted shutting down the government as a Democratic “weapon” on CNN a week ago. Yet the media has been largely silent on the issue.
None of the big three networks or cable news networks found time to cover the story Monday morning. It’s not as if the announcement was unbeknownst to the media. CBS’ online website did two stories on it in the past two days; only describing the threat as a benign “warning” to Republicans.
However, the networks weren’t even close to this calm when Republicans were the minority party. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Every couple of years during the Obama era, the media had a conniption over a potential government shutdown when both parties couldn’t come to a compromise on federal funding. But of course, it was all the Republicans’ fault, every time.
The most recent case came in 2013 when the media hyped a possible shutdown for months on end. Despite the fact that Senate Democrats refused to confirm the budget passed in the House, ABC News took their reporting cues from the Democrats in the White House:
KARL: The White House response was swift, George, to Jay Carney saying, “Today Republicans in the House of Representatives moved to shut down the government.” And it's hard to disagree with that because the Senate absolutely will not pass what just passed in the House.
Eventually the government did shut down for just two weeks and the media’s outrage didn’t stop. During those two weeks ABC, CBS, and NBC blamed Republicans 41 times for the shutdown; not even once blaming Democrats.
The three networks played sob stories night after night of all the negative effects of the shutdown supposedly caused by Republicans.
On NBC’s Nightly News October 3, 2013, anchor Brian Williams whined, “All kinds of people are getting cheated out of salaries, benefits, medical treatment.” NBC then showcased a child with cancer whose hopes for recovery were dashed because drug trials were halted due to the cut to the NIH funding. Yet NBC purposefully didn’t mention that Republicans voted to restore funding to the NIH the day before and were stopped by Senate Democrats. So who really deserved the blame?
Brian Williams didn’t mince words again October 14, when he deliberately laid blame on Republicans:
WILLIAMS: This current showdown and this current government shutdown traces its history back to a determined core of GOP House members who are vehemently against ObamaCare and were willing to shut down the government because of it.
After the shutdown was over, Williams still couldn’t stop blaming Republicans for the “grave” and irreparable “damage” they inflicted on the American people.
“[I]t’s widely agreed to have been a big loss and self-inflicted wound, mostly for the Republican Party,” he scolded.
Towards the end of October, NBC was still complaining about the shutdown. CNBC correspondent Bertha Coombs hyped that it could be “the Grinch that stole Christmas” for families affected by the two week shutdown.
Today’s Bryant Gumbel also openly blamed Republicans.
GUMBEL: Yeah, but I called it the GOP shutdown....I thought it was a false equivalency for people to say it was a government shutdown, a failure of government. It was not. It was a few individuals who were trying to extort the government.
Time will tell how the media reacts if Democrats take responsibility for shutting down the government next month. But if history is any indicator, the silence of the media so far reveals it will be a much different reaction.
Similar situations happened in 2011 and 2012 and were heavily hyped by the media, but government shutdowns were averted in last-minute deals.