Charges of media bias are so common nowadays that their simple volume can undercut their credibility. But at least from time to time some such instances are so flagrant that they should generate condemnation across the political or ideological spectra, and the latest came yesterday on the Washington Post website’s home page.
It’s no longer on-line (and didn’t appear in print), but it consisted of capsule descriptions of the House’s impeachment managers and Trump legal team, and I was so offended that I made sure to copy them as soon as I saw them. Here they are, starting with the managers (and they are indeed worth presenting in full):
Rep. Adam B. Schiff: “The California Democrat is known for distilling complicated subjects clearly and having a willingness to go after Trump’s soft spots.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler: “The New York Democrat leads the committee traditionally in charge of impeachment and shepherded the articles through Congress.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren: “The California Democrat, who is serving her 13th term, is one of the most experienced members of Congress on impeachment.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: “House Speaker Pelosi described the New York Democrat as ‘an accomplished litigator in private practice’ before seeking office.”
Rep. Val Demings: “The Florida Democrat was the first female police chief in Orlando, and Pelosi cited her law enforcement background as a strength.”
Rep. Jason Crow: “The Democrat from Colorado served as an Army Ranger and was partner in a law firm in Colorado.”
Rep. Sylvia Garcia: “The first-term Texas Democrat was a municipal judge in Houston and was one of the first Latinas elected to Congress from Texas.”
And here are the descriptions of the Trump team:
Pat Cipollone: “Republican lawmakers have described Cipollone as the ‘quarterback’ for Trump’s: legal strategy.”
Jay Sekulow: “Sekulow is the leader of the president’s personal legal team and he represented Trump during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.”
Ken Starr: “Starr is the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.”
Alan Dershowitz: “Dershowitz is the Harvard Law emeritus professor who advised the defense team in football star O.J. Simpson’s murder trial.”
Pam Bondi: “Bondi was the attorney general in Florida for eight years and has a number of ties to Trump.”
Robert Ray: “Ray is the former independent counsel, replacing Starr in October 1999, who oversaw the agreement with Clinton that averted a possible criminal trial.”
Pat Philbin: “Philbin is Cipollone’s right-hand man, his most senior deputy in the White House’s legal office.”
Michael Purpora: “Purpura took the lead on battling to prevent White House grand jury testimony from the Mueller investigation from being made public.”
You see the pattern here? Of the Post‘s seven House manager blurbs, four (those for Schiff, Lofgren, Jeffries, and Crow) contained flattering value judgments. And the favorable Crow description included experience that’s of course impressive militarily, but completely irrelevant to the impeachment trial, or any legal matters.
Of the seven Trump lawyer blurbs, none contained a flattering value judgment and three contained references arguably aimed at sliming their subjects (the link drawn between Dershowitz and O.J. Simpson; the observation of Bondi’s (unspecified) “ties to Trump”; and Purpura’s role in what’s all but dismissed as a cover-up.
As for Cipollone and Purpora and Philbin, it would be easy for Post readers to conclude from these otherwise straight factual portrayals that their careers have included no positions of consequence other than their Trump White House jobs – even though the first served as a senior aide to then Attorney General William P. Barr during the administration of George H.W. Bush (no fan of Mr. Trump’s); the second worked as a senior Justice Department official during the administration of George W. Bush (no Trump enthusiast, either), as well as a federal prosecutor in New York; and the third held jobs in Justice’s chain of command under Bush 43.
Everyone should be free to believe that the House managers are mainly legal eagles and/or paragons of virtue and even heroism, and that the Trump legal team is dominated by mere Trump flunkies. But such views don’t bear the slightest resemblance to facts, and if a newspaper fails to keep this distinction straight for what should be a relatively uncontroversial informational feature, why should anyone trust it on anything less cut and dried?