The House Judiciary Committee held a field hearing in Manhattan on April 17, a brief walk from the offices of the local District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, who’s prosecuting former president Donald Trump. Chairman Jim Jordan and the Republicans said it was important to hear from violent crime victims in America’s largest city. The Democrats ardently proclaimed it was a pro-Trump stunt.
ABC, CBS, and NBC also showed an opinion. They ignored it, treated it like it didn’t exist. It wasn’t “news” at all.
This wasn’t a field hearing in Albuquerque, where they might claim it’s not worth the expense of sending reporters and crews. This was in their own home town, their own home borough.
“Public broadcasting?” NPR offered no story in its comically mis-titled evening newscast All Things Considered, but they did have time to glory in the defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The PBS NewsHour earned some kind of paper medal for at least offering a report, and both parties were included in the soundbites.’
At least the nation’s most prestigious (translation: liberal) newspapers would have to cover it. Actually, no! The Washington Post let democracy die in darkness, instead doing a big front-page story on the House Republicans on the debt ceiling debate.
The New York Times put their story on page A-14, headlined “GOP Critics Take Aim at Bragg at New York Hearing.” In the first paragraph, Times reporters Luke Broadwater and Jonah Bromwich quoted an unnamed Republican’s critique of Bragg, that “he was in the pocket of a wealthy Jewish financier frequently demonized by the far right.” Paragraphs later, they highlighted a protester outside who “held a sign with the name George Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, along with the image of a Star of David and dollar signs.”]
Another hometown paper, The Wall Street Journal, put the hearing on page A-5 under the headline “Partisan Bickering Marks Hearing on NYC Crime.”
The worst press release of the day came from USA Today. Their headline on page 3-A was “GOP hearing in NYC draws criticism from Democrats: House committee’s motives are questioned.” That was an accurate summation. Reporter Rachel Looker only quoted Democrats — 159 words of Democrats trashing the hearing. Now that’s a partisan stunt.
At least this hearing was feisty and bipartisan, full of “bickering.” ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and NPR all devoted many lavish hours of live coverage of the House January 6 Committee – the Pelosi-Picked Panel. Those hearings weren’t feisty and bipartisan at all, because Pelosi only allowed two firmly allied Republicans who agreed to repeat all of her anti-Trump messaging.
Somehow, this carefully choreographed, and edited, and unanimous series of television shows was never, ever a “partisan stunt.” To describe it as one-sided was apparently a signal you weren’t serious about democracy and perhaps favored rioting at the Capitol.
You can’t call this starkly partisan double standard a surprise. As we sat through the January 6 hearings, where even the witnesses posed no threat of challenging the Pelosi narrative at any juncture, we could have predicted with enormous confidence that if the Republicans recaptured the House or the Senate, the “mainstream media” would reflexively treat their hearings as toxically political and unserious. This is why “mainstream” is a terrible description of their product.
These networks perennially pose as people who “hold government accountable,” but in reality they often behave as if any hint of holding Democrats accountable signals one of those dreadful “partisan stunts.”