In a Thursday afternoon entry at the Washington Post’s “Style” blog, Paul Farhi identified four recent examples of conservative news “dysfunction” which most people would see as legitimate attempts to set the record straight and/or impose accountability, something one rarely sees at left-leaning establishment press outlets which have far more serious problems. In the process, Farhi also demonstrated a stunning ignorance of conservative news history.
Farhi pegged his story on four recent incidents of “dysfunction,” accompanied by a headline which clearly exaggerates the overall situation (bolds are mine throughout this post; in the first instance, the bolds identify disciplinary and corrective actions taken):
A conservative news crack-up? Things just got real for some partisan personalities.
… the news about conservative news organs lately has been a parade of dysfunction, a messy portrait in pixels. Specifically:
● The Independent Journal Review (IJR), a politics-and-policy news site geared toward conservative millennials, retracted a story last week that suggested, without evidence, that former president Barack Obama had pressured a federal judge in Hawaii to rule against President Trump’s latest travel ban. The site acknowledged that the innuendo-laden story was wrong and suspended three staff members — chief content officer Benny Johnson, writer Kyle Becker and editor Becca Lower.
● Incendiary writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos resigned from the right-wing news site Breitbart last month after videos of him speaking favorably about child sexual abuse surfaced.
● Rising conservative star Tomi Lahren was suspended this week from the Blaze, her online home, after she told ABC’s “The View” that she supports abortion rights, an apparently heretical statement in the judgment of Blaze founder Glenn Beck.
● Fox News Channel pulled analyst Andrew Napolitano off the air indefinitely this week after he repeatedly said Obama had recruited British spies to bug Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. British officials had protested Napolitano’s statements, calling them “ridiculous.”
The spate of seemingly unrelated events occurred as the conservative media have come into a new era of prominence in Washington, boosted by Trump’s election and increased access to decision-makers.
One of Farhi’s premises is that conservative outlets have always been somewhat shoddy, and that it’s only because they’ve finally become more generally popular that their sloppiness is being noticed.
Part of that argument is just plain dumb. Fox News has been Number 1 in cable news for 15 years.
As to the others, Farhi’s problem is that he doesn’t know their history:
IJR and the Blaze didn’t exist during the 2012 election, and Breitbart was more of a niche site, but today they are players.
IJR certainly wasn’t a major force in 2012, but it did exist, having started in June and July of that year with items about Scott Walker’s recall election victory in Wisconsin and a critique of then-President Barack Obama’s claim that his economic plan had worked, respectively.
As to The Blaze, it debuted as a high-powered news site staffed by experienced journalists in 2010. The Blaze TV launched in 2011. In 2012, it became “a 24/7-television network dedicated to delivering high quality programming to traditional satellite and cable providers.”
Farhi’s description of Breitbart as only a “niche site” in 2012 would certainly surprise many people, given that it was getting 13-15 million sessions per month in the runup to the 2012 election, that it consolidated its various “Big” sites shortly after founder Andrew Breitbart’s death in March, and continually drew the ire of the left that year.
Farhi’s big miss, though, is that what his headline hopefully describes as a potential “crackup” is really the result of holding people accountable. IJR disciplined three people who appear to have deserved it. Yiannopoulos left Breitbart largely because the staff insisted that he had to go. Lahren should have known from Day 1 that she would eventually have a run-in with The Blaze owner Glenn Beck over her relatively permissive stance on abortion. Fox suspended Napolitano when it could not find independent support for his belief that UK spies were involved in Trump-related surveillance, even though Napolitano claims to have had three sources (and given the pace and direction of related news this past week, may yet be vindicated).
Farhi should really be wondering why there’s so little accountability at establishment press outlets for major journalistic errors, outrageous conduct, and ethical lapses, especially since conservative sites seem to be doing a decent job of policing their own. Here are just a very few examples of so very many which have occurred:
- His own paper concocted a supposedly compelling December 31 story about how “Russian hackers had penetrated the utility grid. Except, as Investor’s Business Daily summarized it, “There was no code (associated with Russian hacking), the grid was never at risk, and the ‘threat,’ such as it was, had nothing to do with Russia.” Repercussions? None which are visible. Reporter Juliet Eilperin’s archive shows no significant timeline gaps.
- In early March, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof solicited a felony when he begged IRS employees in a tweet to send Donald Trump’s tax returns to him. Repercussions? None which are visible.
- On March 17, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria engaged in serial profanity, describing Donald Trump’s evening that Donald Trump owes his whole life, his success and his election to the presidency to “bullsh*tting.” Repercussions? None which are visible. And while we’re discussing Zakaria, we should also note that he has gotten barely more than a wrist slap for serial plagiarism.
- Then there’s the mother of all collective ethical lapses, as shown in WikiLeaks documents which reveal that roughly 60 journalists attended off-the-record Hillary Clinton campaign messaging meetings whose intentions involved “framing the HRC message and framing the race” so they could help her win the 2016 presidential election. Repercussions? None which are visible.
What these examples and so very many others illustrate is that the establishment press is horribly lax at enforcing whatever standards it claims to have.
Paul Farhi may be taking some pleasure in the four “dysfunctions” he described, but they pale in comparison to the failures seen in the establishment press.