It has been a challenging week for the media, just at a time when they were supposed to be riding high on the delightful promise of an incoming Democratic administration. For the week leading up to Joe Biden’s administration members of the press had been in a state of near wonderment, both in hailing the man who will deliver normalcy back to the country, but also who would re-instill the elevated stature of the press in Washington D.C. For an industry that loves to make themselves part of their stories, this was great news.
Ahead of Joe’s coronation we were promised all manner of journalistic veneration would be taking place. The administration was assuredly going to return to a healthy relationship with the media, truth and transparency would once again be honored characteristics, and the daily press briefings would again be a regular feature. Raves went out for the selection of Jen Psaki as the press secretary, meanwhile the journalists seem to be writing their pieces for the next 4 years, penning glowing features on the times ahead of us.
It only took a couple of days for the wheels to start vibrating off the axle. Psaki has already had a number of signs of struggling with her new post. At CNN the truth merchants put out a blatantly false lie about Biden being left no vaccine distribution network. Then late yesterday there was a signing ceremony where benevolent Joe Biden got testy with the press over a question, and then later in the day the promised transparent administration struck that segment from the White House video feed. It almost seems all these promises were built on chiffon.
Making the media appear even more retrograde is an illuminating piece by Eric Boehm, in Reason Magazine. In compiling a piece on Kamala Harris Boehm made a discovery regarding a lengthy bio that appeared in The Washington Post from 2019. In that feature, Harris had sat for an interview when she was a burgeoning candidate on the Democratic ticket. She was with her sister, Maya, and the article focused on their relationship. In that piece Harris offered her impressions of what it was like on the road as a candidate.
In describing the drudgery of the campaign grind Harris actually likened it to being in jail, and she offered a tableau where she compared herself to a prisoner begging for some morsel and being grateful for a sip of water. She laughed at her description, a painfully unfunny interlude made all the more uncomfortable by her stature as a lawyer and California’s Attorney General. Comparing her life in posh hotels and asking for a chance to go to a spin class being likened to a convicted criminal doing time is understandably a bad piece of optics.
And it was for this very reason it appears that WaPo completely restructured this segment of their Harris bio. Boehm discovered that recent editions of this old interview no longer contained that disturbing passage. Instead, an altogether different anecdote about Harris and her sister appears. The Post had gone back and whitewashed this embarrassing portion of their interview. (The section that was stealth-edited is included in Boehm’s excellent piece.)
This is a disturbing piece of neglect with journalistic ethics. We are looking at a major news outlet in this country going back and rewriting its own history for the benefit of burnishing the image of a sitting administration. This practice of memory-holing a revealing and descriptive passage involving the woman who many feel is likely to ascend to the Presidency is chilling.
We are talking about a facet of the personality of a candidate who could not gain any serious traction in the Democratic primary, and that in itself is revelatory. Kamala Harris dropped out of the race without earning a single delegate vote, and she was going into the primary of her home state of California polling at a far distant fourth place. Her own constituents were not impressed with her as a contender for President, yet now she is on the cusp of occupying the Resolute Desk.
The press is showing all of their cards at this early stage and now it forces the question into our minds — just how many other details are they successfully burying in the courtyard at their headquarters? The story of Harris and her cold comparative to the very people she was charged with incarcerating is one matter. The deeper issue is one of this country’s largest newspapers displaying a willingness to go back and erase uncomfortable or negatively revealing details for the benefit of the administration.
This calls into question, then, just how far are they going to be willing to go with a contemporary story. There is every appearance now that they would be willing to alter details on news items for the sake of presenting Biden and Harris in the proper light. Considering the fawning giddiness we saw on approach this week, this latest example from WaPo is only more reason to be distrustful of this industry.