On his Sunday show Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter brought out a panel made up a proverbial who’s who of Donald Trump opponents to whine about how the media are being “unfair” to Hillary Clinton and going easy on Trump. “All year long, I have been hearing one very specific description of the election coverage,” Stelter stated to start off the first segment, “No, it's not bias, but it's close, it's false equivalents.” Stelter insinuated that there was false comparisons being drawn between the two and that Trump is, “graded on a curve making it easier for him.”
The first person Stelter sought knowledge on the topic from was Jacob Weisberg from the liberal Slate, asking him what came to mind when he thought of false equivalency. “You know, the structure of covering politics is you compare an apple and an orange, they have different attributes,” Weisberg started to explain, “But they're both fruits, you can take your pick. This case we have something more like an apple and some rancid meat.”
“I’m sorry, is Donald Trump the rancid meat,” Stelter asked, while feigning ignorance. “He’s the rancid meat, and in all sorts of ways,” Weisberg responded, “And what I think the press is struggling with is “how do you not normalize him, but at the same time be fair and do your job as a journalist?””
The push back Stelter gave to that attack was barely a slap on the wrist. Weisberg doubled down and slammed the media for not being as unobjective as he is. “I’ve started my podcast because I think it’s so hard in most media to tell it like it is. Yes, I think Trump is rancid meat,” he stated.
Soledad O’Brian agreed that the media was trying too hard to make things equal saying, “I think it's the contortion to try to make things seem equal all the time.” O’Brien also complained that the media did not do a good enough job of repeating Clinton’s message that Trump was a white supremacist. When asked by Stelter if she believed Clinton’s argument she praised it, “[Clinton was] Almost like a lawyer, “here is ways in which he has actually worked to normalize conversations that many people find hateful.””
The whining by the un-Reliable Sources’ panel is completely laughable, especially when you look at the coverage from ABC, CBS, and NBC from the previous week. The “Big Three” pretty much did nothing but cover for the Clinton’s during their evening news programs, often ignoring stories broken that same day. They skipped over the discovery of 30 e-mails about Benghazi among the 14,900 e-mails recently recovered by the FBI. They also failed to mention that Clinton sent classified material after leaving office, and Bill Clinton’s abuse of a federal program for former presidents.
September 4, 2016
11:00:56 PM eastern
BRIAN STELTER: All year long, I have been hearing one very specific description of the election coverage. No, it's not bias, but it's close, it's false equivalents. Meaning journalist who are attempting to cover both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fairly who end up drawing false comparison between the two. I know many Clinton Supporters feel this way. Here's another way to frame this idea, when Trump is covered, is he graded on a curve making it easier for him. Or do these cries of unfairness ring hollow?
This morning I have assembled an all-star panel of three veteran journalists to explore these questions, Jacob Weisberg Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Slate Group, and the host of the quasi-daily Trumpcast podcast, Soledad O’Brien, a former anchor on NBC and CNN now the CEO of Starfish Media Group, and Mark Leibovich the Chief National Correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and a CBC News political contributor.
Jacob, let me start with you. When you here the phrase false equivalency — something I’ve been hearing from Clinton surrogates every single day — what does it mean to you, what does it signify?
JACOB WEISBERG: I was really concerned we were going to have that, this was essentially going to be a process of treating Donald Trump as if he were a normal presidential candidate. You know, the structure of covering politics is you compare an apple and an orange, they have different attributes. But they're both fruits, you can take your pick. This case we have something more like an apple and some rancid meat. Excuse the expression.
STELTER: I’m sorry, is Donald Trump the rancid meat?
WEISBERG: He’s the rancid meat, and in all sorts of ways. I mean, it’s conspiracy thinking, and racism— And it’s all sorts of things that are outside the norm of what we’ve accepted in American politics. And what I think the press is struggling with is “how do you not normalize him, but at the same time be fair and do your job as a journalist?”
STELTER: So, you’ve already insulted him in the first minute of the show, calling him rancid meat. Is that being fair?
WEISBERG: I’ve started my podcast because I think it’s so hard in most media to tell it like it is. Yes, I think Trump is rancid meat. I mean, it’s a metaphor but I think he is someone who injected a kind of toxicity into American politics that doesn’t belong there, that hasn’t been there before, that doesn’t represent what Republicans have stood for in the past.
STELTER: Soledad, are other journalists not “calling it like it is” covering Trump like the unique candidate that he is?
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: I think it's the contortion to try to make things seem equal all the time. So if you look at Hillary Clinton’s speech where she basically pointed out that what Donald Trump has done quite well is normalize white supremacy. One of a long list of things, I think many Americans would find distasteful.
STELTER: And you would say that’s true, that Clinton is right when she says that?
O’BRIEN: I think she made a very good argument. Almost like a lawyer, here is ways in which he has actually worked to normalize conversations that many people find hateful.
Listen, I have seen on air white supremacists being interviewed because they are Trump delegates and they do a five minute segment. The first minute or so talking about what they believe to be white supremacists. So you have normalized that. Then Donald Trump will say, “Well, Hillary Clinton, she's a bigot.” And it’s covered, where the journalist part comes in is, “They trade barbs, he says she's a bigot, and she points out that he might be appealing to racists.”
STELTER: Ah. He said, she said. He said, she said.
O’BRIEN: It only becomes “He said, she said” when in actuality, the facts that Donald Trump said she’s a bigot with not the long laundry list of evidence, which if you look at Hillary Clinton’s speech she actually did have a lot of really good factual evidence, that we would all agree are things that have happened and do exist. They're treated as if they are equal, “Well, she might be a bigot. He might be— have ties to racists. They’re actually equal.” When in reality they’re not equal and, I think, that's where journalists are failing in the contortions to try and make it seem fair.