A survey of 20,000 Americans commissioned this year by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that Americans are growing increasingly concerned about a lack of objectivity in the media. Almost half (49 percent) of those surveyed this year said the media is very biased and almost three quarters think top leadership at media companies are influencing narratives and coverage. More than half (54 percent) of respondents believe that reporters intentionally misrepresent facts. Other surveys show even more dire numbers for the media, with public distrust increasing to an all-time high.
While there is great work being done by local and independent journalists all across the country, one particularly sector of the mainstream political media unfortunately is eroding trust in the media as an institution. Too often during the Trump Presidency, the media has decided on a narrative and then cherry picked what they deem to be supporting evidence based on half-truths, unreliable sourcing, and hearsay. By the time the truth comes out, the damage has already been done and the mainstream political media continues to rinse and repeat, with one poorly sourced hit piece after coming after another. The lie, for example that the President was colluding with a foreign government, stayed on cable news tickers and front pages for years, while the truth once all the facts have come out will be scantly covered because it does not advance a narrative against the President. With so many bad stories to choose from, a novel could be written citing examples and showing how the public’s distrust is directly tied to the amount of fake news being shoveled out on a weekly basis by the mainstream media, but here we’ll highlight three of the biggest failures by the media during the Trump Presidency which have shaken the public trust.
- Foreign Collusion. The number one failure of the media has to be failing to maintain objectivity in their coverage of both the Russia and Ukraine collusion stories. After spending tens of millions of dollars, issuing hundreds of subpoenas, and collecting testimony from hundreds of witnesses, the Mueller report failed to establish that the President committed any crime. On the heels of a failed investigation, Democrats turned to the President’s insistence that Ukraine clean up corruption to launch an impeachment inquiry. While the President needed to turn to addressing the pandemic, House Democrats were still busy distracting the public with their stunt on impeachment and investigations based on a dossier that top brass at almost every agency knew was phony. Interestingly, the impeachment inquiry was not mentioned by any of the major speakers at the Democratic National Convention but at the time of the House’s proceedings impeachment was supposedly needed immediately to save Democracy from President Trump. Recently it is becoming more clear that powerful Democrats were the ones seeking to work with foreign governments to disparage a political candidate and then President. We will let the Durham report speak to more specifics about what happened behind the scenes at the highest levels but there is no doubt that the media’s parroting of the fake Russia and Ukraine narratives so relentlessly dealt a huge blow to their creditability with the American public.
- The Covington Catholic Students. It is rare that the strong First Amendment protections for the media are overcome by the court’s absolute certainty that libelous action was taken against an individual but that is exactly what happened in the case of Nick Sandmann. Sandmann sued both CNN and the Washington Post and in both cases settled with the media companies’ lawyers over misleading coverage of his harmless interaction with an American Indian protester. Before the full context of the incident was publicly available, the rush-to-judgement media attacked the Covington boys, who were in Washington, DC for the March for Life, as racists and called for them to be “doxed” (having all personal information exposed), kicked out of school, and publicly shamed. But it turns out that the media only had a small portion of the video which lacked context. After realizing their grave error, many in the media simply moved on to the next story, with no apologies or even acknowledgement of their errors. Sandmann risked having his life ruined by an out of control media, rabid for any negative story that can be tied back to the President or his supporters. He fought back, sued both CNN and the Washington Post and came out on top. The Republican National Committee invited Nick to speak at their virtual convention where he told viewers: “My life changed forever in that one moment. The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode.” The media took cancel culture too far in the case of Sandmann and actually paid for it.
- The Kavanaugh Hearings. With another Supreme Court fight coming, it important to remember what the media attempted to do to now Justice Kavanaugh. At the height of the “me too” movement Justice Kavanaugh saw the worst of the left’s powerful media apparatus. Unverifiable accusations and strung together narratives about Kavanaugh’s teenage conduct were spun into a web of propaganda, with the goal of turning a decent family man into a public villain. During the height of the fake news frenzy, the pressure was so great that another President may have abandoned a nominee and started over with a new pick, but President Trump stuck with Justice Kavanaugh and against the unverified attacks from the media. The Senate hearings were emotional, with Justice Kavanaugh breaking his normally composed demeaner because of his overwhelming frustration about the lies perpetrated against him. Luckily, even moderate Republicans like Senator Susan Collins saw through these attacks and voted to confirm. With the balance of the Supreme Court in flux and so much at stake after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the media is already gearing up to smear Amy Coney Barrett and her Catholic religion seems to be a main target. For example, the Washington Post recently published an article titled “Amy Coney Barrett served as a ‘handmaid’ in Christian group People of Praise”. More fake news is coming but we look forward to seeing Judge Barrett fight back against these smears during her Senate confirmation hearings.
With the election less than a month away, we don’t expect the media to atone for their past sins and we do expect many more “October surprises” against the President that will later inevitably wash out as conjecture, lacking context, or poorly sourced. Given the media’s huge failures during this Presidency including the foreign collusion lie that dominated cable news for three years, the Covington Catholic lawsuit that CNN and the Washington Post lost from their smearing of a pro-life high school student, and the shameful treatment of now Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, it is no wonder that public trust in the media has taken a serious hit during the Trump Presidency.