President Joe Biden has made no secret that he plans to secure a second term in the White House by rerunning the dark and dystopian “Donald Trump is a threat to democracy” theme that dominated his 2020 campaign. His administration so fully expects establishment media outlets to help hammer this message into American homes that it reportedly has no qualms in meeting with these supposedly neutral professionals in private to spell things out for them.
“Biden’s re-election campaign has begun organizing a series of off-the-record trips for top political reporters and editors to the team’s headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware [to] meet senior officials, including the campaign manager, deputies, and other high-ranking advisors for background briefings on campaign strategy,” Semafor reported earlier this month.
And this is far from the first time the administration has attempted to sway the Fourth Estate to its favor.
‘Coverage Spreadsheet’ for Media to Follow
“They’re also using it as an opportunity to tell them what they’re getting wrong,” the news site continued. “Two people with knowledge of the situation told Semafor that during meetings with reporters from outlets like The New York Times … and others, campaign officials have invoked a coverage spreadsheet laying out areas where the team believes their reporting has fallen short.”
What does that mean, exactly?
In September 2023, White House spokesman Ian Sams sent an official memo to leaders of America’s newsrooms titled, “It’s Time For The Media To Do More To Scrutinize House Republicans’ Demonstrably False Claims That They’re Basing Impeachment Stunt On.” The missive set out that:
“process stories that fail to unpack the illegitimacy of the claims on which House Republicans are basing all their actions only serve to generate confusion, put false premises in people’s feeds, and obscure the truth.”
In other words, don’t explain what is happening; explain why it is all lies. But is the media on board?
In April 2023, President Biden carelessly held a cheat sheet with not only a picture and name of who to call on but also the very question that the supposed journalist was about to ask. The employer of this reporter, The Los Angeles Times, rebuffed claims that either it or she was working in collusion, saying, “Our reporter did not submit any questions in advance of the Q&A with President Biden.” She “is in regular contact with the White House press office seeking information for her reporting. You would have to ask the White House who prepared the document for the president and why they included that question.”
So, no collusion, just White House psychics on the payroll?
As Liberty Nation has regularly noted, the always-brittle fig leaf of journalistic objectivity has completely disintegrated in recent years. With 2024 shaping up to be perhaps the most divisive election in over a century, press partisanship is certain to become more over-the-top than ever.
Just What They Needed
Let’s go back to that Semafor piece again. Biden officials are reportedly unhappy the big-box media isn’t doing a better job of emphasizing Trump’s allegedly “incendiary” statements. Team Biden dearly wants the former president to be endlessly described as an extremist, demagogue, and petty tyrant in the making.
On Dec. 14, just one week after the Semafor report, which specifically stated that NBC had been lined up for a “substantive” discussion on this matter, an article was published on the Peacock network’s news site titled: “Fears grow that Trump will use the military in ‘dictatorial ways’ if he returns to the White House.”
“Donald Trump is sparking fears among those who understand the inner workings of the Pentagon that he would convert the nonpartisan US military into the muscular arm of his political agenda as he makes comments about dictatorship and devalues the checks and balances that underpin the nation’s two-century-old democracy,” the lead sentence read.
This could not be more in step with the kind of “hard news” item the Biden campaign reportedly calls for in personal press meetings.
The insinuation that the Biden crew’s friendly chat with The New York Times went sour seems rather difficult to understand given that the paper specializes in churning out the “existential threat to democracy” reports on Trump that the campaign craves.
“Donald J. Trump and his allies are already laying the groundwork for a possible second Trump presidency, forging plans for an even more extreme agenda than his first term,” the subhead to a Dec. 26 NYT article warned.
The only thing to wonder about that Biden-Times get together is why it was ever necessary in the first place. What possible grounds for complaint could the campaign have about a publication that constantly spools out the Trump doom-and-gloom narrative? In November, it had Trump sketching out plans to construct concentration camps for illegal aliens. Is there is any need to worry about that coverage spreadsheet?
Academia gets to play its part as well. Credentialed experts are ever on tap to pronounce that saving democracy demands a higher quality from the noble men and women of the Fourth Estate than mere fair reporting.
All My Colleagues Agree
Brian Klaas is an “associate professor of global politics at University College London” and contributing writer at The Atlantic. On Dec. 17, he was interviewed by another major media outlet on that Biden campaign meeting list, NPR, as part of a discussion on “Media ‘Failings’ in Covering Trump.”
Gee, that sounds familiar. Oh, right. It’s the specific theme the Biden campaign is reportedly pushing to journalists in private. Just another coincidence?
“Do you think that it’s fair for the media, for reporters, to call Trump a threat to America’s democracy?” Klaas was asked. “So I think that the press has an obligation to be objective, not balanced,” the political scientist replied. Here’s what “objective” means from his ivory-tower vantage point:
“And I think that this is a case where – you know, I study the breakdown of democracy. There is nobody in my field who thinks that Donald Trump is not a threat to democracy – every single person does who studies the breakdown of democracy and political science. And it’s so clear-cut, right?”
This is what passes for intellectual argument in expert circles today: Everybody else I know in academia thinks just as I do about a partisan political issue, so it obviously must be true. This kind of consensus establishment groupthink rampant in Big Media is what the Biden campaign hopes it can rely on in 2024.