The Corner


Why Republicans Distrust the Media

Police officers stand guard as supporters of President Trump gather in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The day rioters incited by President Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, a miracle occurred.

The PBS NewsHour anchor and reporters praised the brave Capitol Police, who employed tear gas and pepper spray in failed attempts to keep the mob at bay.

This is the first time in the past year I can recall PBS praising police trying to keep order in difficult circumstances. I guess rioting is different when it hits where you live, and the police are protecting you.

By contrast, in coverage of leftist unrest in cities such as my former home of Minneapolis, where buildings burned; New York, where 400 cops were injured; and St. Louis, where four officers were shot and a retired police captain was slain, PBS emphasized that most protesters were nonviolent, instead focusing on instances of police brutality. My local PBS station, mind you, airs promo spots with images of white cops beating black protesters, presenting this as the unquestioned, dominant reality.

Of course, media praise for beleaguered law enforcement officers trying to keep order couldn’t last. The very next day, NewsHour featured sociologist Ibram X. Kendi, who insisted that cops behaved far more brutally during 2020’s Black Lives Matter-related unrest. Kendi faced a fawning interviewer with no tough questions.

As for the Trump supporter killed by police last week while she was trying to enter a protected part of the Capitol building, I doubt reporters will portray her sympathetically — very unlike media treatment of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, who official investigations indicate was shot after trying to grab a cop’s gun and later charging the officer.

NewsHour has seldom reported that in most years fewer than one in 650 police officers kills in the line of duty, or that since efforts to defund and degrade policing took hold, increased homicide rates have taken a particularly high toll among African Americans. To be clear, I support police reform, but successful reform requires facts, not stereotypes of racist killer cops.

Lopsided coverage reflects two basic realities about journalism. First, as the Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi points out, journalists at outlets from the New York Times to Intercept are now routinely shunned or even fired for reporting stories that offend the Left. So who would dare provide balance here?

Second, as documented by political scientist Tim Groseclose, American journalists lean left, which affects what they choose to report, which questions they ask, and which they choose not to ask. Leftist intellectuals such as Kendi are on their speed dials, while comparable centrist voices such as Wilfred Reilly or Roland Fryer are rarely sought. Journalists are only human. On law enforcement, reporters must try to make sense of a world they do not know, so inevitably their biases shape what they cover.

Over the long term, this leftist tilt has discredited much of the intellectual class to the point that, even where its voices are objectively right, as regarding Trump’s unsuitability for office or the generally accurate 2020 vote count, many fellow citizens simply do not believe it.

Robert Maranto is the 21st Century Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and edits the Journal of School Choice. He has served on both a traditional public-school board and a charter-school board.


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