Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan was almost beside herself with glee Saturday afternoon.
Sullivan apparently believes that because a bunch of establishment press outlets which have relentlessly attacked President Donald Trump for nearly two years predictably called him a liar in the wake of James Comey's testimony meant that he had "another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."
Though it numbered only nine, a CNN focus group panel in Fairfield, Ohio strongly begged to differ, appearing to surprise network reporter Gary Tuchman.
The opening half of the headline at Sullivan's column asked, "Is media coverage of Trump too negative?"
She spent her first three paragraphs in the aforementioned celebration (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The New York Daily News’s front page on Friday morning screamed “LIAR” in huge type over a photo of President Trump.
USA Today’s banner headline seconded the motion: “Comey calls Trump a liar.” On cable channels, in broadcast news, and even in the sedate Wall Street Journal, Friday morning was one of those days for Trump in the mainstream news media.
In the words of the Judith Viorst children’s book title, it was for Trump another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
(Side note: I can remember when papers like the Post and the New York Times ran columns and interviews with supposed authorities on the subject claiming, in essence, that everybody lies all the time. Talk about double standards.)
Sullivan then referenced the Harvard Shorenstein Center study showing that, in her words, "about 80 percent of mainstream press coverage reflected negatively on the new president," and that "the sheer amount of negative news was unprecedented." She linked to a mid-May NewsBusters post by Jackson Richman which treated Harvard's work as confirmation that "(gasp!) The media is biased against President Donald Trump."
Despite this overwhelming evidence, Sullivan answered her headline's opening question as follows, and became the umpteenth so-called "journalist" since Donald Trump announced his presidential run to say, in essence, that it's the press's duty to oppose him:
Isn’t that terribly unfair? Here’s my carefully nuanced answer: Hell, no.
The idea of balance is suspect on its face. Should positive coverage be provided, as if it were a birthright, to a president who consistently lies, who has spilled classified information to an adversary, and who fired the FBI director who was investigating his administration?
How about attempting objective coverage, Margaret? I guess that's not even on the radar.
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Then, for comic relief, Sullivan tried to establish some benchmarks for journalistic behavior. I fell out of my chair laughing uproariously at the columnist's first attempt to identify a standard, one she clearly believes the press usually meets:
● When news organizations get something wrong, do they acknowledge and correct it quickly? Or do they just move on and hope nobody notices?
Readers at NewsBusters and at other center-right outlets know darned well that the answers to those two questions are far too often "no" and "yes," respectively.
Media behavior during the past two years goes a long way towards explaining why the CNN panel interview mentioned in this post's introduction went as it did — and why CNN's Gary Tuchman, as will be seen in the video which follows (original CNN link), appeared to be, if not blindsided, at least quite surprised by its results.
In the video's beginning, despite Tuchman's attempt to force an answer out of everyone, four of the nine people on the panel of Trump supporters said that former FBI Director Jim Comey was the liar last week, while none of the remaining members would apply the tag to Trump. The reason? One of the five essentially said that it's hard to believe that Trump has lied thanks to how the establishment press has treated him.
At the video's end, all nine members, in a show of hands, said that the feel even better about Trump after the hearing, and felt, in Tuchman's words, "that (the hearing) was a success for Donald Trump and not for Mr. Comey"
It's only nine people who were already Trump supporters, but it certainly shoots holes in the idea that the press's post-hearing "liar" meme about Trump — when it's far more obvious, as seen in my Saturday NewsBusters post about Andrew McCarthy's Wednesday and Thursday appearances on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show, that it's Comey who either lied in May when he said he felt no pressure or last week when he felt he did — will make much headway with anyone outside of the anti-Trump fever swamp.
The full transcript (HT Breitbart), complete with several mostly unsuccessful attempts by Tuchman to steer the conversation in his direction, follows.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.
* * * * * * *
GARY TUCHMAN: Anderson, Butler County Ohio, north of Cincinnati has been very kind to Republican presidential candidates over the years. Since 2000, the Republican candidate has won each time, including in 2016 with Donald Trump with 61 percent of the vote.
And with us right now are nine Trump voters here in Fairfield, Ohio at Rick's Tavern & Grille. And the reason we’re here is we watched the hearing on big screen T.V. this morning, and you all came back to talk to me tonight. Thank you for coming back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You’re welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re welcome.
TUCHMAN: The first thing I want to ask you, it is a crime when you testify before Congress to lie. That is perjury. You can go to prison for it.
Raise your hand if you believe James Comey lied at all.
Four of you believe he lied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yup.
TUCHMAN: Raise your hand — he says that Donald Trump “told lies plain and simple.” Raise your hand if you believe Donald Trump has lied at all about the situation? None of you believe that.
For those of you who did not raise your hands, if neither person lied, how can that be possible? They tell different things. Who didn’t raise their hand? Why do you think if nobody lied, how can that have happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, first of all, things can be distorted and appear like lies, and I think maybe the media might have distorted some things and —
TUCHMAN: The media?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: — not getting both sides.
TUCHMAN: Now you raised your hand. Do you think Mr. Comey should go to jail?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that — my impression of Comey at the beginning of this was that he was kind of an Elliott Ness kind of guy, the way he went after Martha Stewart. But as — especially with his testimony today, he is more like an Ian Fleming where he wants to be the next novelist. A lot of things that he came up with seemed like he’s more inclined to fiction.
TUCHMAN: One of the things he testified about, he said he was in a room with President Trump. President Trump told his attorney general and his son-in-law to get out. And he says President Trump told him he hope he would let it go, regarding the Flynn investigation.
My question for you, a lot of people are arguing hope, that means he didn’t order him. But if your superior, your boss or when you’re little if your parents say, they hope you do something, isn’t that an imperative that you do it, or is that not necessarily an imperative?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was manipulated by the Clintons, too, when Lynch told him to overlook the meeting with —
TUCHMAN: Let me say, though, Hillary Clinton right now is not president. I’m talking about the situation. So, when he is told, Comey from that —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: — I can't trust what he says.
TUCHMAN: So you don’t think that Comey is telling the truth about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TUCHMAN: What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Mr. Comey should have said something at that time.
TUCHMAN: Should have said something to who, to Mr. Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Mr. Trump.
TUCHMAN: What should he have said to Mr. Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I cannot do that. I have to go on with investigations, et cetera. And —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to do it. And he did not do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was never asked why I didn’t think he was being truthful. But I believe he didn’t adequately explain why he couldn’t just tell Trump that this is inappropriate, or tell the chief of staff or DOJ to tell Trump. He continued on with that and couldn’t adequately explain that. It's like — you know, I feel the whole thing was wrapped around this one.
TUCHMAN: Mr. Comey says he believes he was fired because of the Russian investigation. Interestingly, Donald Trump has said, “I fired him because of Russia.” Is there a problem with that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don’t have a problem.
TUCHMAN: Why is there no problem with that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t have a problem with that. First of all, Mr. Trump represents the United States of America. President Trump is our president and sets a standard for everything. And when he asked —
TUCHMAN: But when you say he had commented many times according to the testimony that he liked the job that Mr. Comey was doing, then all of the sudden he’s fired him because he didn’t like —
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think he tried to be uplifting and encouraging to your “employees.” But also he set Mr. Comey several opportunities to be forthright and honest with him, forthcoming with some answers and Mr. Comey kind of dropped the ball on that.
TUCHMAN: And let me ask you this before we go. I think you may know the answer to this, a show of hands, how many of you feel better about Donald Trump, your president, after this hearing? How many of you feel worse about Donald Trump? I guess you all raised your hands at first time. So you think that was a success for Donald Trump and not for Mr. Comey?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.