The year in media

By TIM MURTAUGH
Posted 1/4/22

It’s obvious that the media’s hatred for Donald Trump colored nearly everything they wrote or said during his presidency. But one hoped that after he left the White House, the media might …

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The year in media

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It’s obvious that the media’s hatred for Donald Trump colored nearly everything they wrote or said during his presidency. But one hoped that after he left the White House, the media might recover a little objectivity.

Sadly, a review of 2021 shows that in many cases, it simply did not happen.

The case of actor Jussie Smollett’s fake hate crime came to a conclusion last month, revealing that media outlets still are eager to pounce on a racially divisive story and cast blame, but reluctant to examine themselves when the story falls apart.

For those who didn’t pay attention, Smollett, who is black and gay and once a star of the Fox drama “Empire,” alleged in January 2019 that two white men recognized him, physically attacked him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and tied a rope around his neck in a symbolic lynching before he managed to fight them off.

The media credulously reported Smollett’s story, often relaying the details as fact without describing them as mere allegations.

Last month, Smollett was convicted of five of six counts of disorderly conduct, all stemming from his lies to police about the “hate crime” he staged with the help of others.

And how did the media react to this outcome? Not well, and in some cases, not at all.

ABC News, which had featured Smollett and allowed the actor to elaborate on the hoax in 2019, failed to tell viewers that his trial was underway.

When Smollett’s guilty verdicts were announced, the entire prime-time lineup on MSNBC completely ignored the news.

The lengths to which the media will go to fan racial tensions was also evident in disparate treatment of the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide case in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the November vehicular attack at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Rittenhouse was tried and convicted in the media, painted as a white supremacist, and accused of crimes he did not commit, before he was exonerated by a jury.

In the Waukesha case, career criminal Darrell Brooks drove his car through a crowd along the parade route, killing six and injuring many others -— purposely, police say. And major media outlets still are not curious about a motive. In fact, many reports described the incident as a “parade crash,” as though it were an accident.

Aside from culturally fraught stories, the media saw some of their favorite narratives fall apart in 2021.

In April, the Biden White House — of all things! — finally dispelled the notion that Trump had failed to hold Russia accountable for paying bounties to militants to attack American troops in Afghanistan.

That story had been launched by The New York Times but finally was exposed as baseless.

After a year of wailing that discussion of the theoretical leak of a new coronavirus from a research lab in China was racist or xenophobic, the media finally embraced the idea as a possibility. The lab leak theory was allowed to be discussed once Trump was out of the White House.

Presidential son Hunter Biden’s laptop, once a forbidden topic of discussion that would get you banned from social media, was found to be authentic. A book by a Politico reporter confirmed much of the information contained on Biden’s laptop, a year after most media outlets refused to cover the story.

And maybe the granddaddy of all media comeuppances was the final, definitive debunking of the so-called Steele dossier, the Hillary Clinton-funded opposition research document at the center of the Russia collusion hoax designed to cripple or oust Trump.

In November, Russian national Igor Danchenko, a prime source for former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the “dossier,” was charged with five counts of lying to the FBI.

It was the shameful end to a fake news story fed to the public for more than two years.

A recent poll shows that only about a third of Americans trust the news media, and 2021 did more to erode that confidence than it did to repair it.

Tim Murtaugh is a visiting fellow with the Heritage Foundation in Washington. A longer version of this article appeared on The Daily Signal (dailysignal.com).

 

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