The coronavirus epidemic is shaking humanity and turning the world upside down. Quick, somebody alert the media.
The Washington press corps is covering one of the largest, continuing stories in recent history the same way it has covered the Trump administration since Day One.
The formula is simple: Whatever the president does is not just wrong, it’s borderline evil. Details at 11.
In the real world, events are unfolding at a pace and scale impossible to comprehend. But at too many news outlets, the aim is not to inform. It’s to render the harshest possible judgment on the man journalists love to hate.
Already The New York Times has twice called the White House response “calamitous,” including once in a supposedly straight-news article.
This is beyond shameful. When antagonists like Sen. Chuck Schumer finally are working with Trump and when the Democratic governors of New York and California swap praise with the president over their partnerships, the media ought to take a hint that this time is different and there is no place for biased journalism-as-usual.
Instead, after failing to bring down Trump with Russia, Russia, Russia and impeachment, they’re now putting their chips on the narrative that he’s bungling the public health crisis.
To get there, they’ve had to reverse themselves on a key allegation. For three years the same media told us Trump was a fascist and a budding Hitler, but now his refusal to rule with an iron fist is also cause for condemnation.
Suddenly, the man whose “Authoritarian style is remaking America” (Washington Post), and whose “Authoritarian Ambitions” were exposed by impeachment (New York magazine), foolishly refuses to use the powers of the Oval Office. As usual, other countries are doing it right and America is wrong.
When Trump advised people to stop unnecessary travel and avoid bars, restaurants and groups of more than 10, a Times headline moaned that the “Guidelines Fall Short of the Mandates in Other Countries.”
The Gray Lady’s latest complaints involve the Defense Protection Act, which gives the president the authority to commandeer private industry. But he’s a lousy authoritarian because, as the Times put it Friday, “Trump Resists Pressure to Force Companies to Make Coronavirus Supplies.”
Behind every complaint is a roster of anonymous sources and Obama administration grousers.
Meanwhile, because of its one-track agenda, the media are missing one of the biggest stories — the sense of unity against the epidemic being forged across America.
Even Dem presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders largely slipped out of sight, a welcome sign that they realize now is not the time to try to score political points.
And the public, despite the media, gets it that the president is doing his best against an unprecedented and invisible enemy. Polls reflect a belief that, after a slow start, Trump is mobilizing an enormous national response involving both the public and private sectors and is committed to victory.
An ABC News/Ipsos survey released Friday finds 55 percent approve of the president’s leadership, while 43 percent disapprove. Those figures are a reversal from a week earlier, when 43 percent approved and 54 percent disapproved.
Of course, to recognize this shift in the national mood would mean the media would have to give Trump credit, and that is forbidden. Stark polarization is what the media like and want — and refuse to see anything else.
Tellingly, the more information and access Trump gives the White House press corps, the angrier the members get. The president and his team provide daily updates, announce new efforts and take numerous questions.
While many of the questions try to flesh out details, virtually every day there is also an obvious “Gotcha” effort. Frustrated by Trump’s refusal to surrender to their superior intelligence, his inquisitors, graduates of the Jim Acosta school of journalism, end up berating and arguing with him.
One day there were repeated assertions thinly disguised as questions about why the president continues to call the virus the “Chinese virus.” Doesn’t he realize that’s racist?
His answers were to the point: “That’s where it came from” and “Everybody knows it came from China.”
As some commentators noted, the questions parroted a talking point of the Chinese Communist Party. That makes this a case of Trump Derangement Syndrome with a coronavirus twist.
It’s also a clear case of China trying to meddle in our elections. Once upon a time, the media cared about that.
Friday’s briefing featured Trump scolding NBC reporter Peter Alexander, with others in the room defending Alexander.
The sequence was revealing, with Alexander firing off questions faster than Trump could answer. Alexander first tried to drive a wedge between the president and Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggesting they were at odds over whether new treatment drugs could represent a breakthrough.
As Trump downplayed any differences, Alexander fired an insult posing as a question, saying, “Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?”
Again, Trump answered, saying “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” only to be interrupted with another Alexander question. Alexander finally let Trump answer, then changed course again, asking “So, what do you say to Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
Trump finally had enough, saying “you are a terrible reporter, that’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question. I think it’s a very bad signal that you are putting out to the American people. They’re looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism . . .”
Naturally, that became a big story for CNN and the other usual suspects. Mission accomplished.
There is much talk that the coronavirus epidemic will permanently alter aspects of American life. Let us hope that a new and improved journalism is among the changes.
Putz’s cheap shots
Reader Robert Pilgrim is among those panning the performance of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He writes: “I watched Mayor Putz squander an opportunity to display leadership in a time of crisis. He chose instead to take shots at President Trump. If this is not the height of incompetence, I don’t know what is.
De Blasio says he needs help from Trump. If you need someone’s help, a cheap shot is NOT the way to get it.”
Michael Bloomberg spent more than $900 million on his brief presidential fantasy, and now people who worked for him are paying the price. Politico reports that “staffers who were promised jobs through November no matter what” are getting fired by the hundreds.
Integrity wasn’t in the budget.
Tom Brady leaves Patriots for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Finally, big news that doesn’t involve sickness and death.