A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

Left's grievance with the press grows in age of Trump

Why We Wrote This

Outcry over NYT headline on president's speech shows the left is becoming as unhappy as the right with mainstream media coverage.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to people as they gather for a vigil to remember victims of the mass shootings at Dayton and El Paso, at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, New York, August 5, 2019.

Dear reader:

For some time now, we’ve been hearing about attacks on the mainstream media from the right – most prominently, charges of “fake news” leveled by President Donald Trump against stories he feels are biased and the media’s tendency to frame whatever he does in a negative light.

This week, it was the left’s turn. After Mr. Trump addressed the nation on Monday in the wake of two horrific mass shootings, The New York Times posted a story with the following headline: “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism.”

An outcry ensued.

“Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by – and often relies upon – the cowardice of mainstream institutions,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “Unbelievable,” chimed in former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, the site of Saturday’s massacre.

Joan Walsh, a correspondent for The Nation, tweeted that she was canceling her subscription (“I can’t keep rewarding such awful news judgment”). Indeed, CancelNYT actually became a trending hashtag.

Eventually, the headline was changed and Dean Baquet, the Times’s executive editor essentially apologized, explaining that the narrow layout on the page didn’t allow room for “subtlety.”

Of course, the headline wasn’t factually inaccurate – Mr. Trump did urge unity against racism in his speech. But to critics on the left, that framing was entirely misleading, since it ignored the many times Mr. Trump’s own words have seemed to stoke racial animus in this country.

“A vast swath of Democratic voters are pretty angry at the media,” former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told Politico. “They see a racist liar in the White House and a media too afraid to call him a racist or a liar.”

Mr. O’Rourke’s struggling presidential campaign had a viral moment earlier this week that seemed to encapsulate the growing liberal frustration with the press. Asked by a reporter whether there was anything the president could do to “make this any better,” he responded: “What do you think?” adding: “Members of the press, what the [expletive]?” He went on: “It’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing.”

To the right, much of mainstream media is saddled with inherent bias. To the left, it’s too often constrained by absurdly artificial conventions that prioritize “balance” over truth.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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