Double standards: the new normal in journalism?

By Paul Ackerman | Jan 03, 2019

A few months ago I touched on the aspect of mudslinging in the upcoming election cycle (Beginning a season of tar and feathers, May 2018) and the pretzel logic of the media/journalists to assiduously apply new double standards to all things Republican. Ignore it if the Democratic side does it; headline it if any Republican even thinks about it.

As we pass the torch into the new year, it is worth considering several of these episodes of the past and then consider the veracity of what passes for journalism today and in the future. Much needs to improve, though you would never know it from the narratives constantly promoted these days.

To establish the baseline, a “double standard” is defined by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary as,

“a situation in which two people, groups, etc., are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them.”

To be “unfair to one of them” seems rather narrow in scope as one recognizes that for a variety of reasons the method of application is via the “news media," and the groups affected are not only those targeted for mistreatment, but the overall population (viewership/readership). This happens because of the entrenchment of dishonesty within a supposedly neutral information gathering/disseminating organization.

Currently the news media are having a meltdown over the abrupt resignation (then apparent immediate replacement of) Secretary of Defense James Mattis. While I consider Mattis’ military record and published letter of resignation superb and reasonable, the way in which the media pundits are wringing their hands over this gives new meaning to histrionics. Only the person doing the firing, President Trump, is different.

Previously, under President Obama, Marine Gen. James Mattis was the head of Central Command from 2010 to 2013. As such, he had responsibility for operations spanning Northeast Africa, the Middle East and Central and South Asia. As a veteran combat commander and careful tactician, he rankled certain civilians within the Obama administration who were promoting the impending Iran nuclear deal by asking the obvious question (“and then what?”) in response to their rote assurances. Political differences and his experience guiding a policy divergence back then gained their enmity. President Obama did not even bother to call Mattis when he fired him.

Mattis was made aware that he was being fired -- or “replaced” as the cover story was concocted -- by an aide handing him a note from a Pentagon press release during a meeting.

Was this cause for a news frenzy, breathlessly ranting about the chaos in the White House or insulting behavior by the president? No. It was papered over very smoothly. The general continued on in active duty, clearly sidelined for political reasons that the press refused to report because it would have been critical of the Obama presidency and/or administration.

Now, as secretary of defense, James Mattis, after publicly announcing his letter of resignation, is fired by President Trump and the journalists in the media, print and digital, have begun running the-sky-is-falling stories as to how this is the worst thing since time began.

Why is the press coverage different? It is simply because the press covered for Barack Obama and hates Donald Trump. That is basically it, the double standard exemplified.

Next up -- the taxpayer-funded congressional slush fund that pays off victims of harassment (sexual and otherwise) by members, that we as peons may not ever know about in detail, as reported on the American Thinker website in an Aug. 23 article by Keith Edwards.

While the highly tainted (tainted, yes, by bias and corrupt practices of destroying evidence — in my next article).Office of the Special Counsel under Robert Mueller squeezes former presidential attorney Michael Cohen to plead guilty to a variety of his own crimes of tax evasion and bank fraud related to New York City taxi medallions, the press focuses on payments made by Cohen to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

These were to enact a lesser version of what the congressional payoffs do – creating “non-disclosure agreements.” The OIC is now alleging that these payments were illegal campaign contributions by Cohen, made with Trump’s knowledge before he ran for election.

Why is it that nonconsensual events that occurred within the Congress and/or Senate get no wall-to-wall coverage by CNN, NPR and the other networks? It is for the same reason that “journalists” Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and others, plus media moguls Les Moonves and Harvey Weinstein, never got outed by their peers for years. The double standard. Do we really need to go as far back as the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal and the claims that this was “a vast right-wing conspiracy,” rather than a double standard?

According to reports available, the Treasury slush fund used to pay off known claims – including sexual harassment — has forked over somewhere between $15 million and $17 million to settle claims. If you haven’t heard anything from the accusers on "Morning Joe" and "Mika" or Rachel Maddow’s show, it is likely because of non-disclosure agreements with the Treasury Department and Congress.

Because of the double standard the press now uses, you can be certain that not one of these members of Congress will be accused by Mueller’s team of creating the basis for charges of illegal campaign contributions. Do you think that if any of the charges of harassment ever came out — and to be fair, from what we can know to date, they are opaque at best — that they would not affect the reelection chances of these solons? So by the very nature of the payoffs, these should also be considered illegal campaign contributions, right?

Comments (2)
Posted by: Katherine Holland | Jan 04, 2019 09:27

In re: to "the Treasury slush fund used to pay off known claims – including sexual harassment": the following news outlets all carried reporting on that topic: New York Times, CNN, Reuters, NPR, Fortune, and USA Today and others. And that reporting resulted in a bipartisan bill that changed the Congressional Accountability Act so that now lawmakers, including those who leave office, will be personally financially liable for any settlements resulting from harassment and retaliation. In addition, the new bill requires public reporting of settlements, including the names of lawmakers found to be liable. More details and the names of some of the latest lawmakers found guilty of sexual harassment are available here:

The original Congressional Accountability Act, created in 1995, created the fund as well as a cumbersome process for the accuser rather than the harasser. It was the press coverage of this coverup process in combination with the revelations of the #MeToo movement that eventually led to the changes made in December. And that would not have happened without the unanimous passage in the House and the persistence of the 22 women in the Senate who pushed for the changes despite the initial Senate version of the bill that continued use of the taxpayer funds.

A free press is a useful and important tool and critical to the health of a democracy. Without it, coverups like this would never be made public and therefore would never be addressed and changed for the better.

As for your point about the fund relative to the special counsel's investigation, at the time that these lawmakers used the fund, they did so in compliance with the Congressional Accountability Act as written in 1995, as despicable as it was. But you make an interesting point - recovering the monies from those who used this fund and publicly publishing their names seems only just.

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jan 03, 2019 18:46

Well, Paul, I certainly look forward to your next installment of trump induced fantasy writing - "(tainted, yes, by bias and corrupt practices of destroying evidence — in my next article)"- but for now a few comments by one of the personalities in you current scree.


"Looks like retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal won’t be joining the ever-evolving roster of Trump administration officials anytime soon.

The former top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said during an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he would reject an offer to work for President Donald Trump if asked.

“It’s important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth as best they know it,” McChrystal said. He suggested that the president has been, at times, “openly disingenuous on things.”

“The military talks about ... if you’re put into a difficult military situation would that leader sacrifice himself, put himself and others at risk to come for you,” he continued. “I have to believe that the people I’m working for would do that, whether we disagree on a lot of other things. I’m not convinced from the behavior that I’ve seen that that’s the case here.”

Asked if he believes Trump is “immoral,” McChrystal said yes.

“I don’t think he tells the truth,” he told ABC. “What I would ask every American to do is ... stand in front of that mirror and say, ‘What are we about? Am I really willing to throw away or ignore some of the things that people do that are pretty unacceptable normally just because they accomplish certain other things that we might like?’”


And then there's this.


"Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will likely implicate the president, his campaign, and his close associates in aiding and abetting a Russian conspiracy against the United States to undermine the 2016 election.

First, Mueller has clearly identified collusion in the efforts of Trump aides and associates to contact WikiLeaks. In a draft plea agreement provided to conservative operative Jerome Corsi, Mueller details how Roger Stone, who the special counsel notes was in frequent contact with Donald Trump and senior campaign officials, directed Corsi to connect with WikiLeaks about the trove of stolen materials it received from Russia. Corsi subsequently communicated WikiLeaks’ release plan back to Stone, and the Trump campaign built its final message around the email release. That is collusion.

Second, we now know that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn have provided evidence to Mueller related to collusion. In Cohen’s sentencing memo, Mueller said that Cohen provided his office with “useful information” on “Russia-related matters core to its investigation.” One of those central elements, according to the Justice Department: “any links and/or coordination” between the Kremlin and Trump campaign figures. Collusion, in other words.

In Flynn’s sentencing memo Mueller said that Flynn’s false statements to the FBI about his calls with the Russian ambassador during the transition were “material” to the investigation into “links or coordination between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”

Third, Mueller has found evidence that Trump was compromised by a hostile foreign power during the election. In his plea deal, Cohen revealed that Trump had repeatedly lied to voters about the then-candidate’s financial ties to Russia. While Trump claimed during the campaign to have no business dealings with Russia, he was negotiating a wildly lucrative business deal not simply with Russian businessmen, but also involving with the Kremlin itself. Trump’s team even reportedly tried to bribe Russian President Vladimir Putin by offering him a $50 million penthouse.

Worse, Russia not only knew that Trump was lying, but when investigators first started looking into this deal, the Kremlin helped Trump cover up what really happened. That made Trump doubly compromised: first, because he was eager to get the financial payout and second because Russia had evidence he was lying to the American people—evidence they could have held over Trump by threatening to reveal at any time.

Since the president’s embarrassing performance at the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin—when he kowtowed to a foreign adversary rather than stand up for American interests—there has been open speculation about what leverage the Kremlin has over him. Now we know at least part of the picture, raising the specter of what other information Putin has, and how he is using it to influence Trump’s policy decisions.

Fourth, we know that Trump has engaged in an increasingly brazen attempt to cover up his actions: installing a political crony to head the Department of Justice by potentially illegal means in an effort to shut down the investigation; using his former campaign chairman and convicted criminal Paul Manafort to find out information about Mueller’s investigation; and even appearing to offer Manafort a pardon if he helps him obstruct the Russia probe. These may be components of an obstruction of justice case, but they also provide strongly circumstantial data points as to how serious Trump himself views the allegations of collusion being levelled against him.

Lastly, federal prosecutors have told us Trump broke the law to influence the 2016 election by hiding evidence of his affairs. Trump clearly had no qualms about breaking the law to win an election.

In the face of what Mueller has revealed, there is little question where this is going. Mueller may still be only showing us part of his hand, but it’s a damn good hand. He has signalled to us he’s found collusion. "

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