Biden’s polls aren’t great. To what extent is the media to blame?

(Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Biden’s polls aren’t great. To what extent is the media to blame?

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Jackie Calmes

February 14, 2024

Long before Fox News adopted the term fair and balanced as its slogan, the American media strove to meet that standard. Unlike Faux News, which has since dropped those words as well as virtually any pretense of pursuing them, the mainstream media is still pursuing a mistake.

Such was the case in 2016 with the outrageous reporting of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for State Department business, a feat that spawned numerous critical journalistic postmortems and the meme “But her emails.” The media, obsessed with appearing fair to Donald Trump, tried to balance all the negative coverage he generated for his lies, insults and bigotry and turned Clinton’s email habits into a pseudo-scandal. Ultimately that

in the

balance in continuing to harp on the issue


honest with her.

The media seems to be at it again. The new but her emails are only his age, that is, President Biden’s age, even if Trump is


three years and seven months younger.

The issue is not without merit. Both men are by far the oldest to seek the presidency, breaking the record


set in 2020.

What isn’t justified is the barrage of Biden’s age-coverage that has been unleashed since late last week, when a Republican special counsel linked his finding that Biden should not face charges for retaining classified material after his vice presidency to completely inappropriate quackery about the aging president’s diminished faculties.

On Monday,

media analyst Margaret Sullivan provided an overview of some of the reporting.

It is nothing short of journalistic malpractice, she wrote, for the media to make Biden’s age the overarching issue of the 2024 campaign, especially against the aging population.


democracy-threatening Trump. According to the Popular Information newsletter, the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal published a total of 81 articles about Biden’s age and memory in the four days following the special counsel’s report.

Amnesia, lies, name changes and blunders from Trump, a man who has added that he thinks repeaters, women, men, cameras and TV prove the opposite, receive far less journalistic scrutiny. For starters, the media is as accustomed as the public to Trump’s falsehoods and malice; his white noise moaned the Bulwark, a Never Trump news site, this week. Yet he accumulates outrages that cannot be ignored as in the future inviting Russia should attack or do whatever it wants against NATO allies.

And as negative coverage of Trump increases, the media is disproportionately seizing on Biden’s weaknesses and ineptness, as if to even the score.

That’s just another form of the both-sidesism that has long been evident in journalism: the tendency to be fair and balanced toward reporting that suggests that both parties, both parties, or both candidates have equal degrees of critical should receive coverage, or be equally guilty. in some respect. The result is too often false equivalence.

It is worth issuing another warning to political scientist journalists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, in their 2012 book documenting that Republicans were more responsible than Democrats for the dysfunction and polarization in our politics: balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon is a distortion of reality and a disservice to your consumers.

Even the New York Times Pitchbot, an account on Twitter/X that mocks the media for this trend on both sides, couldn’t top the reality on CNN. The satirist behind the account posted a photo of the network screen during a panel discussion. The chyron at the bottom read: Is Biden’s age now a bigger problem than Trump’s charges?

Some in the media have tried to explain why significantly more voters are concerned about Biden’s age and mental acuity than Trump’s. An ABC News and Ipsos poll released Sunday found that 86% of Americans say the president is too old for another term, compared to 62% who say the same about Trump.

One reason is the perception that Trump, although hardly physically fit, seems more energetic than Biden. So reporters talk a lot to Democrats, who as a party tend to overreact to unfavorable news, polls and whatever bedwetting stuff the way Obama officials used to stomach ache. So you get stories like this week’s headline A nightmare: Special counsel’s assessment of Biden’s mental fitness triggers Democratic panic.

Republicans, on the other hand, generally don’t give reporters anything when it comes to the disgraced former president. They are Trump mushrooms, obsequiously stupid


about his transgressions while not actually defending him. Take Trump’s obscenity about abandoning NATO allies: I couldn’t find a single incumbent Republican who openly opposed what he said, lamented former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a rare Republican who has opposed Trump. Kinzinger also said Trump’s talk was further evidence that he is clearly in mental decline.

One factor missing from the media’s explanations for why Trump outperforms Biden when it comes to age and mental stability ratings: the role of the media itself. Would the polls be less bad for Biden if the reporting were different?

It was a sycophant of Trump, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who in 2016, when he was still in doubt about his support for Trump, warned that he, the voters and the media would one day have to justify how they had fallen into this trap .

The unprincipled Rubio certainly has a lot to answer for. This also applies to conservative media. As for the mainstream media, it is not too late in the election year to avoid the bipartisan trap.



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