The partisan bias of Trump-era media

By Jesse Anderson
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, February 2, 2018
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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to March for Life participants and pro-life leaders at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Jan. 19, 2018. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)

In the era of Trump, most weeks tend to feel as if they have an accelerated news cycle, but this past week was a whirlwind, even by current standards. Stories surrounding the Trump-Russia connection seemed to come out by the hour and, as has often been the case with these revelations, their true significance was difficult to parse out from the sensationalism that surrounded them.

Though partisan bias commonly plays a large role in what various networks report and how much emphasis they place on any given story, this week the partisanship felt unusually heightened. Indeed, so different were the various narratives being pushed that you could easily have had the sensation that networks such as CNN and Fox were reporting on parallel worlds.

Last week's biggest story, according to the liberal media, was that in June of last year Trump wanted to fire Robert Mueller, the head of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump was reportedly dissuaded from doing so after White House Counsel Don McGahn, who is charged with advising the president on legal matters, said he would resign instead of carrying out Trump's demand.

Trump's desire to fire Mueller was allegedly due to what the President perceived as conflicts of interest. The first of these was a dispute Mueller had at a Trump-owned golf club in Virginia over the payment of fees; the second was the fact that Mueller had worked for a law firm that had represented Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law; and the final supposed conflict was the FBI's consideration of making Mueller head of the organization shortly before he took over the Russia investigation.

The story was naturally used by the left as evidence that Trump is guilty of something, whether it's collusion or obstruction of justice. The obvious problem, though, is that the story itself doesn't mean much. What does it matter if Trump wanted to fire Mueller? The fact is that, in the end, he didn't. As for the claims that Trump considering firing Mueller must somehow be indicative of guilt, this is the left once again failing to realize just how truly random and baseless most of Trump's decisions are.

Looking at his Twitter makes this immediately clear. Trump acts – or Tweets – first, and then sometimes, if enough pressure is put on him, thinks. In any case, firing Mueller wouldn't have ended the Russian investigation, so it's hard to see what good it could have done Trump other than pushing its conclusion a little bit further into the future.

As for conservative media, their favorite story surrounded two FBI agents – Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – who were tasked with working on the Russia investigation but were ultimately fired by Mueller. Texts sent between the two before the 2016 election show a very strong anti-Trump bias and have been pointed to by conservative pundits and lawmakers as proof that the Russia investigation has been flawed from the beginning. Most damning, however, are texts that seem to indicate corruption in the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal.

Further complicating the issue is the fact the FBI claims to have lost several months' worth of texts between the two agents – messages which could prove pertinent to the accusations being made against them. Some on the right are saying it would be nearly impossible for the FBI to lose the texts and that this only provides more evidence of the bureau's corruption.

The right's story of the week carries more weight than the left's, but many Republican-friendly commentators are still trying to draw too much from the story. For instance, some are saying that this essentially proves that the FBI has no right to be investigating Trump and that the Russia scandal is, and has always has been, one big diversion. But this is taking things too far; Mueller did fire the two agents and very few people have called Mueller – the person who matters most here – or Mueller's ability to undertake a fair investigation into question. The news certainly doesn't look good for the FBI, but it's by no means an irrecoverable blow to the organization's legitimacy.

Jesse Anderson is a writer and translator originally from Seattle. He is currently based in Mexico City.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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