Double standards — if it wasn’t for them, some journalists wouldn’t have any at all. Newsbusters catches this fine example from CNN on Saturday, in which our friend Mary Katharine Ham points out two examples in media coverage. First, MK notes that both sides like to play up the COVID-19 horror over public assembly when their political opponents conduct it, while leaving unspoken that media coverage generally picks one side in that balance. And contrast between their coverage of Joe Biden street celebrations and the “Million MAGA March” speaks for itself.
She makes the point more explicit about media coverage of non-concessions, though, which provokes Ryan Lizza and Ana Cabrera. Some non-concessions are more virtuous than others, apparently:
MK criticizes Donald Trump for refusing to concede, but also includes Stacey Abrams in that criticism. If we’re going to say non-concessions are bad, then let’s say they are all bad rather than selectively celebrating them:
HAM: … So, I’m happy to have them look at that in Georgia and I think possibly Wisconsin at this point. But math is not in his favor. He cannot overcome the mountain of votes for Joe Biden in many of these states that he would have to do to do this, and therefore the right thing to do is to say I think this is not going to happen and to graciously concede.
I’m comforted that it doesn’t seem like Biden’s transition is suffering because of this. And I think, look, if he has a strategy, the strategy might be a sort of contemporaneous example in Stacey Abrams because he sees there are great accolades and attention and appetite for somebody who does not concede an election as she did not in Georgia for the governorship for two years, and she has got feted by media and everybody.
So, he’s looking around and saying, maybe that’s the path for me. It is a bad path, and we should say that it is bad.
Wait a minute, objects Cabrera. Abrams started a GOTV non-profit, so all is forgiven, or something — an argument that MK skewers immediately:
CABRERA: I should note on the Stacey Abrams comparison, I mean, the reason that she was effective post her race is because she actually started, you know, a nonprofit to get out the vote, to really juice up the voter turnout to make sure people have a right to exercise.
HAM: Hold on, but do we think if Trump did not concede, which would be, I think we can all agree, wrong, if he started an effective GOTV nonprofit that we would be giving him magazine covers and good coverage? No, I don’t think that would be right, and it happens on the other side, and he sees that very clearly.
Lizza then jumps into the fray:
LIZZA: I take that point. Look, I covered the Trump White House now for four years. I interviewed Stacey Abrams the other day right before the election, and you know, I don’t want to be too cute about this, but Donald Trump is no Stacey Abrams. What happened in Georgia, it was a more defensible post-election non-concession, I guess I would call it.
HAM: But the margin was larger.
LIZZA: Yeah, but, let’s, you know, I think it’s fair to point it out, but I do want to call a little false equivalence on what Trump is doing in trying to delegitimize the incoming president, not honoring him with the traditional smooth transition during a crisis.
Ahem. The vote gap in Georgia at the moment is 14,151 votes out of 4.992 million cast in the presidential election. The vote gap in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race was 54,723 out of 3.939 million votes cast. Which one is the most realistic to challenge? To this day, Abrams has never conceded the race, but she gets superhero coverage from a fawning media class for doing exactly what Trump is doing now — refusing to concede, offering conspiracy theories for her loss, blaming it on corruption, trying to exclude ballots, and so on.
Does anyone really think that the Washington Post would publish a picture like this of Trump if he started a GOTV non-profit? Come on, man:
It’s this corrosive double standard in media coverage that has put journalists somewhere between members of Congress and used-car salesmen in polls on public trust.
Update: And let’s not forget this non-concession:
Do you recall reporters pearl-clutching over this?
“Hillary Clinton dismissed President Trump as an ‘illegitimate president’ and suggested that ‘he knows’ that he stole the 2016 presidential election in a CBS News interview to be aired Sunday.” – 9/26/19https://t.co/s6LGxfYnzO pic.twitter.com/3LQfUaJm5j
— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) November 16, 2020
Hillary Clinton didn’t run a transition, but Barack Obama did — and used it to spy on Trump advisor Michael Flynn over the same activity (speaking to a foreign diplomat about potential changes in policy) that Joe Biden’s team will shortly be doing. If it weren’t for double standards …