White House tells media to commit acts of journalism

No media report on the House impeachment inquiry targeting President Joe Biden is complete without prominent coverage of the fact that Republicans have no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden, and are instead basing their drive to impeach on lies. Unfortunately, a lot of media coverage is incomplete in this exact way, leading the White House to send a letter to major media organizations, calling on them to do better at reporting the facts.

“It’s time for the media to ramp up its scrutiny of House Republicans for opening an impeachment inquiry based on lies,” the White House wrote. The memo details how “Covering impeachment as a process story—Republicans say X, but the White House says Y—is a disservice to the American public who relies on the independent press to hold those in power accountable.”

And in the modern media environment, where every day liars and hucksters peddle disinformation and lies everywhere from Facebook to Fox, process stories that fail to unpack the illegitimacy of the claims on which House Republicans are basing all their actions only serve to generate confusion, put false premises in people’s feeds, and obscure the truth.

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That’s the crux of it: If House Republicans can rely on the media to help spread their lies under the guise of neutral reporting, without a full explanation that these claims are false, then people are going to believe things that are not true. The media cannot fully combat the spread of disinformation, of course, and right-wing media organizations like Fox News are more interested in spreading it themselves. But traditional media shouldn’t let itself be used to launder false claims.

Predictably, the right-wing media immediately started stirring up outrage about the White House issuing “marching orders,” as go-to Republican legal expert Jonathan Turley put it. It’s a dynamic we’ve seen repeatedly.

The White House: Hey, guys, could you try to stick to the facts and identify misinformation as such?

Right-wing media: How dare they??? This is oppression.

That outrage is a reflexive response; in this case it’s also intended to distract from the 14-page appendix accompanying the White House letter, which offers thorough debunkings of seven key lies on which Republicans are basing their claims about the need for an impeachment inquiry. For instance, Republicans insist, “Joe Biden ‘engaged in a bribery scheme with a foreign national.’” But that allegation is based on an FBI document recording an unverified allegation that was initially investigated and dismissed by the Justice Department under Donald Trump.

In short: A claim about something Biden allegedly did before he was president that the Trump Justice Department couldn’t substantiate at a time when Trump was looking for ways to discredit Biden has now become an exhibit in a push to impeach him.

Another of the Republican claims, that “Biden has participated in his family’s global business ventures with America’s adversaries,” was directly refuted by testimony from two of Hunter Biden’s former business partners—witnesses House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer bragged were going to help him show Biden’s corruption. No such ties have been revealed in the thousands of pages of bank records House Republicans have obtained.

Everything the White House offers there is exhaustively documented, with many of the sources coming from the same media organizations the letter is begging to fairly cover this impeachment inquiry. The facts are widely available, and now they’re neatly summarized in a very transparent 14-page document with lots of links. Reporters and their editors need to use those facts—and not in the eighth paragraph following seven paragraphs of Republicans lying, but right up front, every single time.

Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.

Laura Clawson

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