Don’t Pretend That 20 WaPo Reporters Investigating Trump Is ‘Biased’ or ‘Unfair’
When it was reported that the Washington Post was devoting 20 reporters to investigating Donald Trump‘s past, pundits were shocked — shocked — that a major national newspaper should devote such attention to the Republican’s presumptive nominee.
Kimberly Guilfoyle on Outnumbered Thursday said, “Hillary Clinton may not look any further than the mainstream media to dig up dirt on Donald Trump, because the Washington Post apparently has an army of reporters digging into every facet of the presumptive GOP nominee’s life,” and moments later added, “My goodness, I hope someone would do a deep dive on Hillary.”
Later that day Eric Bolling on The Five said, “I wish the Washington Post would start digging into the Clinton Foundation, all the accusations that the Clinton Cash book made, there were specific allegations in the book and Clinton is denying all of that. I wish the Washington Post would go ahead and do some investigative journalism into that.”
With all due respect to my colleague Joe Concha, even he noted that there is a “cadre of Post reporters (20) assigned to dig up everything in Trump’s past” while observing that there’s “still no word on how many reporters are assigned to the likely Democratic nominee, but here’s betting it ain’t close to 20.” (After the Five hosts expressed their desire to see an equal number of journalists focused on Clinton, the Washington Post contacted them to say they did have the same number of reporters working on the Democratic frontrunner.)
All this the same day that many of the same pundits were heralding the Trump/Ryan summit as the first sign of a bright new era of GOP unity, and enjoining all Republicans to line up behind the presumptive nominee.
It is beyond rich to complain about increased media scrutiny of Trump in one breath and then, in the next, to trumpet his arrival as the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Go ahead and register your indignation that one of the nation’s leading papers is going to take an unusually active interest in a man this close to the Oval Office, especially one who reached this far without all the scrutiny that attends career politicians.
So let me allow one of Bolling’s co-hosts to offer a retort:”I don’t think there’s any wrong or biased about that. I do think they should send an army after Donald Trump. That’s what happens when you have a presidential candidate. I think that’s perfectly fair. I think they’ve sent a ton of people after Hillary Clinton,” Dana Perino said. I couldn’t agree more.
And let’s not pretend that just because Trump and Clinton have each been in the “public eye” for decades that they have faced equal scrutiny. For all the quantity of time and column inches lavished on Trump, so little of it has been focused on Trump’s actual business record. This is a man who has been largely left to write his own legend — a tendency that dragged on far too long during the Republican primary.
Networks lavished airtime on Trump’s plane pulling into hangars across America, while most everyone published articles dutifully tracking his sideshow of a campaign. (Guilty as charged.) Meanwhile, the New York Times broke stories about Clinton’s emails and delved into her record on foreign policy, and the exposé Clinton Cash was published on a wave of avid pre-release buzz. (The publisher subsequently had to adjust a number of passages for inaccuracies.)
It is disingenuous in the extreme to pretend that Clinton is somehow getting off the hook here. Twenty reporters digging into Trump’s largely unexamined past will not put a dent in the everyday routine of breathless updates, many speculative, on the ongoing FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails. Nor will it deaden the churning out of reports regarding the Clinton Foundation’s ledgers, currently being scrutinized with nanoscopic attention — as they should be.
The Huffington Post embarrassed itself badly when it tried to relegate all Trump-related coverage to the Entertainment section. But the misstep was illustrative of a plain fact, which is that the vast majority of Trump’s coverage in the media has focused on his career as a celebrity playboy, the star of his own TV show, tabloid cover fodder, and the nation’s totem of massive wealth. Even when media outlets did do a little digging into Trump’s past, it was rarely into his business dealings or his finances. It was more like rediscovering long lost episodes of a favorite TV show — see for instance Buzzfeed’s unearthing of the Howard Stern tapes. Trump was, is, has always been covered as entertainment. Huffington was at least, for a time, honest about it.
If the number of reporters seems a bit much, we might charitably consider it an act of contrition from a press corps making up for lost time. Will you truly say with a straight face that a man who could be president, who has gotten a major party’s nomination with perhaps less actual vetting than any candidate in modern history, is getting too much scrutiny?
So the time has come — long past come — for a serious inquiry into Trump’s past dealings, one commensurate with the investigations into Clinton in both quantity and quality.
Sam Reisman (@thericeman) is a staff editor at Twitter.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.