Column: When Reporters Babble 'Without Evidence'

September 2nd, 2020 6:19 AM

One of the common tropes we see in everyday news coverage is the claim that something President Trump or his supporters say is “without evidence.” This is a stark factual claim. Sometimes, it’s starkly wrong.

The hashtag #DefundNPR started trending on September 1 after NPR tweeted this to 8.3 million followers: “President Trump declined to condemn the actions of the suspected 17-year-old shooter of 3 protesters against police brutality in Kenosha — claiming, without evidence, that it appeared the gunman was acting in self-defense.”

Video evidence clearly shows a man approaching Kyle Rittenhouse while he was on his back, holding a handgun. Rittenhouse shot him in the arm. You don’t have to justify everything Rittenhouse did to know there’s obvious evidence of acting in self-defense.

The actual article NPR’s Twitter account linked to made no such “without evidence” boast. Reporter Alana Wise more cautiously claimed “Graphic video from the chaotic scene only tells a partial story. The shooter's alleged actions have split onlookers on party lines,” she wrote. But she failed to explain what the video showed.  

The words “without evidence” are routinely applied to Trump’s statements about mail-in voting. On Today on August 16, NBC’s Hallie Jackson said “On Saturday the President, without evidence, claimed mail-in voting to be, quote, ‘catastrophic.’" On the same show two days later, NBC’s Peter Alexander lectured “The President, without evidence, keeps escalating his attacks on universal mail-in voting and defending recent policy changes at the Postal Service that critics warn could delay the delivery of ballots.”

But NBC is blatantly avoiding evidence from their own base in New York City. It took the city six weeks to count a record 400,000 absentee ballots cast in the June 23 election, and in the primary race of liberal Rep. Carolyn Maloney, they didn’t certify her as the winner until August 6.

When he conceded last week, Maloney’s opponent Suraj Patel complained about 11,000 ballots in the district remain uncounted. Thousands of voters also reported receiving their ballots late, or never getting one.

That would feel “catastrophic” if you’re a Patel backer. It would certainly feel “catastrophic” to Trump-hating reporters if Trump won a state in mail-in ballots by a narrow margin. They would complain if it took weeks to count, and some ballots were never counted. No one believes they wouldn’t eagerly promote challenges to the integrity of the election. See 2016.

Meanwhile, it’s sadly routine for liberal media outlets to make outlandish claims about Trump. The Washington Post editorial board recently published a hyperpartisan editorial claiming Trump “has done as much as any global actor to advance the cause of authoritarianism and undermine the free world. Mr. Trump’s most conspicuous aid to tyranny has been his relentless support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

There is overwhelming evidence that Trump’s policy toward Putin has been tougher than the Obama-Biden “reset button” approach. In 2012, Obama drew media cheers for mocking Mitt Romney for suggesting Russia was a threat. Trump upset reporters last fall by mocking Obama at a press conference in France for letting Putin take over Crimea in 2014, saying Obama was “outsmarted.” (How dare he!) PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor emotionally objected: “Why keep repeating what some people would see as a clear lie?”

Even the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution published an analysis in 2018 ("Don't rehabilitate Obama on Russia") concluding “we should not slip into collective amnesia over the Obama administration’s weak and underwhelming response to Russian aggression.” Trump provided lethal aid to Ukraine; Obama didn’t. 

But no one should expect the Biden-loving press to ever report “Biden stated without evidence Trump weakened American policy toward Russia.”