Now that the presidential race is heating up, we’re getting our quadrennial lesson in the hopeless and perennial nature of media bias. Hillary Clinton is proving to be the most obviously corrupt major presidential candidate since her husband, and before that, you’d probably have to go back to Nixon to find someone worse. And yet, every damning new revelation about her conduct—from possibly illicit financial dealings to private spy networks to document destruction—is not so much reported as it is contextualized (a word we usually hate) by a sympathetic media. The context is sadly predictable: Here’s one more opening for Hillary’s cranky right-wing opponents to go after her.
Newsweek, for instance, recently reported that the largest individual donor to the Clinton Foundation is a shady Ukrainian billionaire who profits off of trade with Iran and may be in violation of U.S. sanctions. Here’s the revealing first sentence of Newsweek’s story: “Enemies of Hillary Clinton waiting to discredit her bid for the White House are likely to seize on news that one of the biggest benefactors to the Clinton Foundation has been trading with Iran.”
Why on earth should such a story be focused not on the scandalous news itself but on whether Hillary Clinton’s supposed “enemies” would use it to discredit her? If she has, in fact, done something wrong or unseemly or inappropriate by taking this money—well, then, she deserves to be discredited.
As far as Hillary’s troubling finances go, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Hoover Institution’s Peter Schweizer has a book coming out called Clinton Cash full of reporting that suggests money was being funneled through the Clinton Foundation by donors hoping for favorable treatment while Hillary was running the State Department. The New York Times has dutifully reported Schweizer’s discoveries, but also felt compelled to provide the requisite Democratic party-loyalist context. This is from the first paragraph of the first Times story on Clinton Cash: “The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings ‘big news’ that will ‘shock people’ and make voters ‘question’ the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
In case that didn’t provide ample warning to the Times’s liberal readers, the report goes on to note, “conservative ‘super-PACs’ plan to seize on ‘Clinton Cash,’ and a pro-Democrat super-PAC has already assembled a dossier on Mr. Schweizer, a speechwriting consultant to former President George W. Bush and a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.” Schweizer’s facts aren’t really in question, and he has also pulled no punches in going after GOP congressional corruption in the past, but liberal Times readers have been once again alerted that the bigger picture is that critics might “seize” on these discomforting revelations.
Naturally, all of this signaling is leading liberals to an inevitable conclusion. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy spells it all out under the headline “‘Clinton Cash’ Attacks Could End Up Aiding Hillary.” This, despite the fact that there are so far only a few published revelations from Clinton Cash, Schweizer’s book isn’t out yet, and Cassidy admits he hasn’t read it. Nonetheless, Clinton Cash “could end up benefiting Hillary. With [Fox’s Sean] Hannity and other conservative media figures piling on, the Clinton campaign will be able to portray questions about the Clinton Foundation and the family’s finances as a political witch-hunt rather than a legitimate exercise in vetting presidential candidates,” he writes. Cassidy is suggesting that the GOP is overreaching without even a pretense of weighing what kind of reaction might be warranted to the reporting done by Schweizer.
Apparently the media have uncritically bought into Hillary Clinton’s self-serving fantasy that there’s a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get her. With coverage like this, it’s going to be a long 18 months.