Remember when it was considered a direct attack on American democracy for a president to answer a reporter’s question if his tone rubbed the media the wrong way? What a difference a change of administration can make, as long as the new one is led by Democrats.
With Joe Biden in the White House, it’s apparently not worth the whisper when his press secretary says out loud that a well-known reporter is questioning him as “a stupid son of ab–“.
Jen Psaki actually said this Thursday night during a live taping of a liberal podcast. Referring to Fox News’ Peter Doocy, she said: “He works for a network that asks people questions which, nothing personal to any individual, including Peter Doocy, but which could make anyone look like a stupid son of a bitch.”
If the media didn’t crash every time former President Donald Trump or one of his spokespersons cracked a joke or poked fun at a reporter, Psaki’s remark might be considered a bad joke. But there are also the wildly inappropriate deals she made with NBC to get her own show as soon as she left the White House — a deal she reportedly made even while working as a spokesperson for the Biden administration.
Indeed, NBC’s news division (yes, it still has one, in theory) and MSNBC have been actively covering a senior White House official whom reporters know is their future colleague.
If we had found out that Sarah Sanders or Kayleigh McEnany had been in talks with Fox News even for contributing roles while still working in the Trump White House, we would never have heard the end of it as a heartbreaking scandal.
Joe Scarborough, Don Lemon and all the New York Times columnists would be angry.
Corruption! Attack on democracy! Fox is Trump’s propaganda arm!
To their half credit, a few journalists offered a light critique of the PSAKI case. Last week, CNN’s Oliver Darcy called the current dispute between NBC and Psaki “an awkward dynamic.” Insider.com’s Claire Atkinson said ‘there’s something very, very wrong’ if Psaki were to move immediately from White House press secretary to appearing on news programs where she will continue certainly to promote and defend his former boss. “This move feels too fast to me,” she said. (Although this was after Atkinson paid sweet compliments to Psaki, describing her as “very compelling television”, confessing that “I like listening to her” and admitting that “I think she’s very good at order the part”.)
And that’s about the extent of the problems the national media can find in this area.
It’s been so long since the Washington Post made a melodramatic show adopting the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” and CNN started running corny TV ads explaining that an apple isn’t a banana. They didn’t do it because there were imminent new dangers to the foundation of the country or because government officials had never played with the facts before. There was no threat to press freedom or legitimacy.
No, the threat was to the stranglehold of the national media on who can determine what is important and in the best interest of the public. The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and every other mainstream media are much more comfortable when that power is theirs alone. It is much easier for them to promote the candidates and political figures they like.
And they love the Biden administration. This does not threaten their power. So when the president’s spokesperson uses profanity to mock a critical reporter, or when that same spokesperson presents a lucrative media opportunity while still working in the White House, uh, that’s not nevermind. They also love PSAKI.
Eddie Scarry is a columnist at the Federalist.
New York Post