Just a couple of months ago, having a press secretary sneer at reporters constituted an attack on the First Amendment and qualified journalists for hazard pay. When House Democrats attempt to take news channels off of cable and satellite systems through intimidation, suddenly the story becomes — wait for it — “Republicans pounce!”
In Politico’s case, it’s that the GOP outrage over the letter from Anna Eshloo and Jerry McNerney might “sidetrack” Congress’ look at misinformation during the election. Their report even accuses Republicans of “tarring” Eshloo and McNerney over their intimidation campaign:
Today’s House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing is intended to highlight what leaders say is rampant pandemic and election misinformation and disinformation permeating cable and broadcast networks. That would’ve been a pivot away from their usual haranguing of social media companies over this issue. But many are now tarring Democrats with claims of “censorship” after California Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney pressed TV carriers on Monday on whether they’ll continue carrying right-leaning Fox News, One America News and Newsmax.
— Blowback to the Democrats: That letter was “an affront to the First Amendment,” said Media Institute President Richard Kaplar, whose nonprofit has ties to media companies in the mix. Top GOP lawmakers were also quick to express dismay — including the panel’s top Republican, the head of the Republican Study Committee and Whip Steve Scalise. “This is what you’d see in the Soviet Union,” wrote Scalise, who sits on the subcommittee and could well raise these grievances today. E&C ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) will say in her opening statement that the “hyper-partisan hearing to shame and blame” marks an “obvious direct attack on the First Amendment” and will compare the efforts to those of the Chinese communist party.
— Between the (very thorny) lines: Republicans were just last year blasted as wannabe “speech police” when seeking to have the FCC narrow social media’s Section 230 liability protections. Many will watch Democrats’ words today closely for any hint of support for government intrusion into the media’s activities.
Many should wonder why the same media outlets that went into hysterics over press passes for Jim Acosta and Brian Karem suddenly think that it’s totes cool for Congress to intimidate carriers into blocking news-media outlets. When Donald Trump talked about “fake news,” national media outlets shrieked that Trump had declared war on them. They adopted self-aggrandizing slogans and campaigns, like CNN’s apples and bananas or the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
Now two members of Congress pressure carriers to make news media outlets go dark literally, and suddenly it’s the pouncing that’s newsworthy. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. I guess democracy now dies in scrutiny of abuse of power, or something. Perhaps this probe into media-driven misinformation should get expanded exponentially, because this is just … bananas.