One of the most important jobs of the media is to be the so-called “fourth estate” — an unofficial fourth branch of government that holds the three official branches accountable. Ideally, this would take place when reporters provide a look at reality when politicians lie, despite pressure from the same politicians to not report the truth.
However, there is another way to hold a politician accountable: Stop taking the politician seriously by not reporting what he or she said. I propose that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has long passed the point of “unseriousness” to “harmful to society,” and this should be reflected in reporters and editors refusing to publish what he says.
Consider just a handful of truly harmful things Reid has done or said in the last few weeks, and one example from 2012:
In 2012, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) received some level of infamy for claiming that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for a decade. Naturally, the charges were not backed by any evidence, yet the mainstream media treated Reid’s comments as though they had legitimacy. At the time, I asked if Reid had violated Senate Ethics rules by essentially campaigning on the Senate floor.
More recently, Townhall’s Guy Benson hammered Reid for using his Koch brothers obsession as an excuse to block amendments to the unemployment insurance that is set to pass the Senate on Monday. As Guy put it in his headline: “Old Man Still Muttering Incoherently About Koch Brothers”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough attached Reid’s tactic as “the stupidest strategy” he has seen, but most mainstream and liberal media outlets have taken Reid seriously. They’ve done this despite the probable abuse of power Reid’s statements are, and Ed’s point that at least one of Reid’s anti-Koch efforts likely violates Senate Ethics rules.
Of course, it’s not just the Kochs Reid has gone after recently. He’s also gone after the people sharing how the Affordable Care Act is hurting them — and then denied doing so. If you want to read about how arrogant and abusive of power this is, check out Guy’s excellent takedown of Reid here. Justifiably and rightly, Guy is and was furious, and so should the rest of us be.
Reid’s Koch habit — yes, yes, I used the cliched term; I couldn’t help it — includes accusing the Koch brothers of associating with companies that circumvent sanctions on Iran. Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon showed that Reid has taken campaign donations from companies doing the exact same thing.
And, finally, Reid recently said the minimum wage Democrats want — $10.10 per hour — was not picked arbitrarily, but to bring people out of poverty:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated his “no negotiations” stance on the Democratic proposal to boost the minimum-wage to $10.10 per hour, despite calls for a deal from some red-state Democrats up for reelection in 2014.
“No, there are none. Nope,” Reid told reporters following a minimum-wage rally with union members and other Democratic leaders. “The reason we picked that number, $10.10, gets you out of poverty — $10 doesn’t. $10.05 doesn’t. We didn’t pick that number just to be fun.” The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
You know what would actually help people get out of poverty? Eliminating the minimum wage so low-skilled minorities could work more, or repealing the Affordable Care Act, or tax reform, or cutting the budget, or pretty much anything else that wouldn’t increase the cost of employees for employees. And does anyone believe Reid picked a $10.10 hourly wage because that’s the way to help people out of poverty, rather than reasons of political gamesmanship? Why not go to $20/hour, Senator?
Like the lies of President Obama on pretty much everything — whether his views on spying on Americans; war without authorization from Congress; fiscal responsibility; and the alleged benefits of the Affordable Care Act — the media would actually be doing its job to not report on what Reid says. But if it must report, fact-checks should accompany what is said in its articles and editorials, not simply an unchallenged and uncorrected reporting of these lies and other brazen violations of the public trust.