Politics & Policy

When Biases Collide

(File photo: Ramin Talaie/Getty)
The media’s liberal bias is compounded by its bias toward trivia

Sometimes, you really have to give the New York Times credit for the sheer amount of reportorial labor it undertakes.

This is not one of those times.

A couple of Times reporters spent Friday morning basking in praise for their “nice scoop” — the less-than-remarkable public knowledge that Marco Rubio was written four traffic tickets over the course of two decades — but, as Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon pointed out, neither of the reporters in the byline — Alan Rappeport and Steve Eder — nor the researcher also credited by the Times for the piece — Kitty Bennett — ever accessed the traffic records in question. But somebody did: American Bridge, a left-wing activist group, had pulled the records just before the Times piece appeared, and the Times employed some cagey language, with the relevant sentence beginning: “According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets. . . . ” A search? Yes. Whose search? A piece of the news that apparently is not fit to print.

That the New York Times’s political desk is thick with lazy partisans who take their cues — and in some cases, their research — from Democratic interest groups is not a secret, though the Times really ought to have, if not the honesty and the institutional self-respect, then at least the sense of self-preservation (these things do come to light) to disclose that it is being fed opposition research and choosing to publish it as though it were news. Senator Rubio’s having received a traffic citation approximately once every five years is no less newsworthy because the documentation was gathered by a Democratic activist group.

It is un-newsworthy for completely different reasons.

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Four citations, two of them dismissed, since 1997 — that long-ago year when Herself attended her second inaugural as first lady — is the definition of unremarkable. The incidence of his being cited is unremarkable, especially in Florida, which is notorious for the entrepreneurial spirit of its traffic police. The nature of his offenses — failing to come to a complete stop, etc. — is unremarkable. His handling of the offenses — enduring one of those remedial driving classes in one case, hiring a lawyer to fight the citation in another — is unremarkable. Senator Rubio’s car — a beige Buick — is almost comically unremarkable. The only thing remarkable about this episode is that the Times seems to have allowed itself to be convinced by partisan operatives that this is remarkable.

The Times also considers Mrs. Rubio’s driving record, and finds that she has a number of citations and was involved in a fender-bender so minor that no police report was filed.

In the annals of bad political driving, the Rubios do not even merit a footnote.

In the annals of bad political driving, the Rubios do not even merit a footnote. The standard case study was Senator Edward Kennedy, but one of the examples that stands out in my mind is that of George Stephanopoulos — who, when he was running the Clinton White House, managed to get himself arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and driving with an expired license after failing to negotiate a parking space in front of a bar in Georgetown. He popped a bunch of mints; there was no drunk-driving charge. I remember the episode because of one detail: Stephanopoulos was driving an old Honda CRX, which I found disappointing at the time — I’d assumed that senior White House advisers drove better cars.

Whether Mrs. Stephanopoulos — the comedienne Alexandra Wentworth, a sense of humor being needful in her situation — has had any tickets in the past 20 years is not to be gleaned from the pages of the New York Times. In fact, the Time’s interest in the travel habits of the spouses of presidential candidates is a bit . . . uneven. Mrs. Rubio’s traffic violations are news that’s fit to print, but the self-proclaimed newspaper of record has taken scanty interest in the peregrinations of former president Bill Clinton aboard an airplane nicknamed The Lolita Express, bearing him to a destination with an even worse nickname — “Pedophile Island” — in the company of Jeffrey Epstein, today a convicted sex offender. There are some aspects to that story that are considerably more interesting than failure to come to a complete stop: Clinton traveled in the company of a pornographic actress (her business is listed in Epstein’s records as “massage”) and many times in the company of Sarah Kellen who — you’ll have to go to Gawker for this, as the Times must yawn — “was believed by detectives in the Palm Beach Police Department, which was the first to start unraveling the operation, to be so deeply involved in the enterprise that they prepared a warrant for her arrest as an accessory to molestation and sex with minors. In the end, she was never arrested or charged, and federal prosecutors granted her immunity in a 2007 non-prosecution agreement that described her as a ‘potential co-conspirator’ in sex trafficking.”

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If there is a Times reporter willing to press Herself on these facts, he is being kept at a safe distance.

Instead, let’s talk about a senator’s wife — not the senator himself, but his wife — driving 8 mph over the speed limit.

The major media apparatus’s bias in favor of Democrats is only one of its biases, and maybe not even the most important one.

Or let’s talk about sexagenarian sex changes. Every Republican presidential candidate is expected to have a fully fleshed-out view on the question of Bruce Jenner’s decision to call himself “Caitlyn” and to spend the remainder of his retirement as a Medicare-eligible man pretending to be a Medicare-eligible woman. Clintons frolicking through an underage-prostitution ring, not on the edges but right in the middle of it? The Times’s attention to that matter has amounted to very little more than a throwaway line in a Maureen Dowd column, a mention of “sketchy hangers-on in the mold of Ron Burkle and Jeffrey Epstein.” That is a remarkably genteel characterization.

The major media apparatus’s bias in favor of Democrats is only one of its biases, and maybe not even the most important one, though it will probably seem so to whomever the Republicans nominate in 2016. In the long run, its more important bias is its bias in favor of trivia: The hijinks of the Jenner-Kardashian family, Marco Rubio’s wife’s traffic citations, Marco Rubio’s bottled water, Marco Rubio’s thinning hair. But the bias toward trivia is a bias in Herself’s favor, too: God help her if the electorate should turn its attention her record as secretary of state, as a senator, as a first lady . . . 


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