Bozell & Graham Column: Reporters Suddenly Hate the Soviets?

Reporter Andrea Mitchell is celebrating 40 years with NBC News and appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to discuss the milestone. Host Trevor Noah suggested the killings of five reporters in Annapolis could be laid at President Trump’s door (he wasn’t joking). Mitchell demurred, but denounced Trump for calling the media the “enemy of the people.” 

The term certainly has a Soviet echo. That said, conservatives certainly could consider them the enemy. We prefer calling the “objective” media the “opposition party.” 

This is “not benign,” Mitchell proclaimed. “You know, this is something that we first heard from Joseph Stalin. This is very dangerous. It undercuts democracy.” Mitchell was far from the first reporter to hear Stalinist echoes in Trump.

But NBC for many years lionized the Soviet Union for its authoritarianism with a compassionate face. They routinely mourned the end of communism. You think we kid? Take NBC’s Bob Abernethy: “Congress changed the Soviet Constitution to permit limited private ownership of small factories, although laws remain against exploitation of everyone else.” 

Even in 2014, during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, NBC reporter Stephanie Gosk was swooning over Stalin in Moscow: “Stalin promised the metro would be a palace for the people, and so it is. Open architecture, mosaics, even chandeliers.” 

Today, Dan Rather attacks Trump’s attacks on the press as “undemocratic.” But thirty years ago, democracy wasn’t so admirable. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," Rather asserted on CBS in 1987. The next year, Rather added “The reality is that even if the communist state were to protect individual rights aggressively, many of its people are not prepared to tolerate diversity.”

The New York Times also lectured President Trump: “It is difficult to know if President Trump is aware of the historic resonance of the term, a label generally associated with despotic communist governments rather than democracies.”

This is the New York Times we’re talking about! This is the newspaper that won a Pulitzer for Walter Duranty’s shameless denial of a horrific famine in the Ukraine under Stalin, a Pulitzer they’ve never returned. This is the newspaper that sent Herbert Matthews to glamorize Fidel Castro into power, foolishly denying he was a communist. 

Even today in their news pages, Stalin’s evil reputation is more debatable than Donald Trump’s.

A recent story from Volgograd by Sarah Lyall highlighted a Russian woman named Irina Rubaeva with a “jolly Uncle Joe figurine” on her desk and “a more imperious Stalin bust against the wall. She says she likes having him around. More than that, she believes it is time to restore his name to the city whose history all but belongs to him.” 

The Times found it fit to print that Rubaeva declared “Stalin is to be praised for his political and economic achievements,” as well as a local Communist party chief adding “They still consider Stalin a liberator there, and it is right that there should be a monument to him.”  They’ve also publicized Chinese communists who still get a thrill up their leg for murderous Mao Zedong. 

Considering their shoddy record on offering “resistance” to totalitarian communism, these journalists should really be much quieter and humbler about who’s been friendlier to dictators. 

New York Times Andrea Mitchell Dan Rather
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