Republicans scored a big win on Tuesday night, but you wouldn’t know it from most of the media. Former Navy pilot Mike Garcia flipped a blue congressional seat in California, turning a district red in the state for the first time in over 20 years. Yet, the network newscasts skipped it on Wednesday night and again on Thursday morning.
MSNBC previewed the race on Tuesday before the votes came in (by mail). Cook Political Report House Editor Dave Wasserman offered a backhanded compliment to Garcia. After noting that “Hillary Clinton won [the district] by seven” in 2016, Wasserman awkwardly referred to Garcia as a “unicorn,” telling Chuck Todd, “[Republicans] have a unicorn here in Mike Garcia, who is a former Navy fighter pilot, who is the son of a Mexican immigrant. He’s a great fit for the district.”
The compliment aside, it’s rather condescending to refer to a winning minority candidate as a mythical creature. On Wednesday's PBS NewsHour, host Judy Woodruff managed 14 seconds on Garcia: “In California, Mike Garcia captured what had been a Democratic seat near Los Angeles.”
It was Fox News host Bret Baier on Wednesday who more properly explained the scope of the victory and why it matters:
Republican Mike Garcia won a special election to fill a congressional seat in California. That, a big win for the GOP. Garcia a former Navy combat pilot. Democrat Christy Smith conceded a short time ago today. The seat became vacant last year after the resignation of Democrat Katie Hill. This is the first time in more than two decades a Republican has captured a Democrat-held seat in blue California.
CNN managed to highlight the big Republican victory… online. Buried on CNN.com was this headline by Chris Cillizza: “Why Tuesday was the best day for House Republicans in a long time.”
It’s not as though this is some district that journalists can claim they are unfamiliar with. It’s the former seat of Democrat Katie Hill. She resigned in 2019 after a sex scandal involving harassment, threesomes and a Nazi-era tattoo.
On March 3, 2020, The Washington Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold wrote about how the media fixated on the weirdness of the Hill story:
In the 122 days since she left office, Hill has been one of the media's favorite interview subjects, appearing on television or in print at least 19 times, or on average, once every 6.4 days.
In 2019, it took several days for the networks to even cover Hill's scandal. ABC, CBS and NBC waited until she was ready to resign to notice. But now, despite a shock GOP win, the House district is much less interesting.
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Brief transcripts of mentions on MSNBC, Fox and PBS can be found below. Click “expand” to read more.
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5:43 PM ET
CHUCK TODD: Let’s start with California. It’s probably the closest thing we got. I saw a late surge of Dem ballots. So, my California Democratic sources still assume they lose that seat. But they think they have narrowed the gap. What say you, sir?
DAVE WASSERMAN (Cook Political Report House Editor): Well, there are two factors as to why Republicans could capture a seat that Hillary Clinton won by seven even though Trump is so woefully unpopular. The first is they have a unicorn here in Mike Garcia who is a former Navy fighter pilot, who is the son of a Mexican immigrant. He’s a great fit for the district. The other is that this is a low turnout, standalone mail ballot special election. And what’s that done is it’s skewed the race towards longtime residents of this district who tend to be older and whiter and more Republican.
Special Report With Bret Baier
6:07 PM ET
BRET BAIER: Republican Mike Garcia won a special election to fill a congressional seat in California. That, a big win for the GOP. Garcia a former Navy combat pilot. Democrat Christy Smith conceded a short time ago today. The seat became vacant last year after the resignation of Democrat Katie Hill. This is the first time in more than two decades a Republican has captured a Democrat-held seat in blue California.
7:23 (20 seconds)
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, two states held special elections for the U.S. House races on Tuesday. And Republicans won both. In California, Mike Garcia captured what had been a Democratic seat near Los Angeles. And in Wisconsin, Republican Tom Tiffany easily won a seat in a pro-Trump district.