Liberal media outrage erupted on Thursday night when The New York Times posted an interview with Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon. The morning headline on Friday’s front page was “Media Bashed Again, as Chief Strategist Piles On.” Inside on page A-16, the headline was repeated: "News Media Bashed Again As Top Strategist Piles On."
Reporter Michael Grynbaum was shocked that Bannon “repeatedly” described the media as the “opposition party” to Trump.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Mr. Bannon said of the election, calling it “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”
“The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign,” Mr. Bannon said. “Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign.” (He did not name specific reporters or editors.)
“That’s why you have no power,” he added. “You were humiliated.”
Grynbaum presented outraged liberal journalists who denied this statement of the obvious:
Journalists reacted with alarm and defiance to Mr. Bannon’s comments. “What country are we living in?” Christiane Amanpour, the CNN correspondent [and Obama voter], wrote on Twitter.
“We are not the opposition,’’ Stephen Engelberg, editor in chief of the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, wrote in an email. “We are part of an essential function in any democracy.” He added that ProPublica had no intention of “shutting up in response to this or any other president’s demand.”
“We are here to tell the truth and we intend to continue doing so, regardless of how badly some might want us to parrot ‘alternative facts,’” Mr. Engelberg said.
CNN’s media unit put out a “SPECIAL ‘SHUT UP’ EDITION” of their daily “Reliable Sources” email, with Brian Stelter beginning with snark: “Welcome to day six. One of the top officials in the Trump administration is calling the media ‘the opposition party’ and advising them to ‘shut up.’”
Note that Stelter is actually misquoting Bannon, who said the media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Liberal journalists often shortened the quote to take off the “just listen for a while” part...which only underlines they're not great at listening.
In their email, CNN’s Dylan Byers tried to be generous, for a liberal: “I think Bannon meant to say that the media should rethink its approach to Trump before criticizing his every utterance. I'm not defending what he said, but I don't think we need to be histrionic either.”
Stelter then asserted the “rethinking” is under way. “But it is inappropriate for a leader of the government, whether Republican or Democrat, to demean the media as "the opposition party." Bannon's comments expose a hatred of the press that is corrosive to our democracy... And it's only day six.”
On social media, conservatives quickly rebutted this line of argument by recalling how Obama aide Anita Dunn explicitly declared Fox News Channel was “the communications arm of the Republican Party” in 2009. We reported on October 18, 2009, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos embraced Dunn's terminology as he asked Obama strategist David Axelrod: “Are you worried that your strategy is fortifying your enemy?”
Or turn to The New York Times on October 12, 2009. The headline wasn’t “Media Bashed Again,” or “Fox Bashed Again.” Oddly, it was “Fox's Volley with Obama Intensifying.” The media reporter was none other than one Brian Stelter:
Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.
''We're going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,'' said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. ''As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.''
Stelter did not report this was “corrosive” to democracy at that time. Instead, he and his newspaper helped assemble the White House list of “perceived offenses." Grynbaum didn't go looking to help the White House makes its case against the media. He suggested Bannon offered no proof of obnoxious "mainstream" reporter Twitter feeds. (Reminder: CNN's Byers thought snarky reporter tweets were "just clever assessments" of a terrible Trump campaign.)
Fox said it’s newsy in the daytime, and more opinionated in prime time, like news and editorial pages. Stelter then continued with content analysis:
The White House rejects the news and editorial page comparison, and officials there can rattle off any number of perceived offenses. They date to the month before Mr. Obama formally started his presidential campaign, when one of the network's morning hosts falsely claimed that he had attended a madrassa, an Islamic school. (The incident happened on what Fox calls an entertainment show, Fox and Friends; the mistake was corrected on the air later.)
More recently, Fox hosts have promoted tea party rallies against big government and steered attention toward a number of White House czar appointments. Mr. Beck, in particular, was credited with forcing Van Jones, a low-level White House adviser for environmental jobs, to resign last month. Mr. Beck devoted numerous segments to Mr. Jones and called him a ''communist-anarchist radical.''
''If it wasn't for Fox or talk radio, we'd be done as a republic,'' Mr. Beck said in the wake of the resignation.
The Times and Grynbaum also failed to see the irony in their “Media Bashed Again” outrage considering their own firing-squad stories at the media elite in recent months. Last September, Grynbaum wrote an anguished "media bashing" piece after an NBC “commander-in-chief forum” called "Matt Lauer Fields Storm of Criticism Over Clinton-Trump Forum." He even quoted tweets that mangled the facts, such as one from political commentator Norman Ornstein, which said: "Lauer interrupted Clinton's answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump." In fact, Lauer interrupted Trump 13 times and Clinton seven times.
When NBC debate moderator Lester Holt aggressively attacked Trump in the first presidential debate – like an “opposition party”? – Grynbaum hailed him in the Times as a “minimalist moderator.” He described how Holt "opted to lie low" and "was silent for minutes at a time," and then reported that The New Yorker had published a liberal parody called "CNN Launches Manhunt After Lester Holt Vanishes From Debate."