Many White House correspondents, past and present, believe they are members of a privileged class. They demand the right to throw mud at the president and his spokespersons with loaded, gotcha questions but insist on absolute immunity from being questioned or criticized themselves. Chris Wallace, now an anchor for Fox News, is an alumnus of the White House press corps. He was NBC’s White House correspondent between 1975 and 1988. Wallace exhibited the hubris of his exclusive club during his Sunday morning show on May 24th when he went after White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. McEnany had dared to challenge the professionalism of the so-called “journalists” present in the White House briefing room. Wallace was dismayed.
After enduring a series of questions focusing on President Trump’s call to reopen places of worship at a press briefing that occurred on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, McEnany confronted the Trump-hating inquisitors on their bias. She posed a series of questions herself that the White House correspondents should have been asking if they were doing their job. Why, she wanted to know, wouldn’t any curious journalist worth his or her salt not inquire into the unfolding revelations of abuses of power by the Obama administration against the Trump campaign and transitional team. These abuses included the numerous unexplained unmaskings, the fraudulent FISA applications for surveillance of an American citizen who worked for the Trump campaign, and the persecution of Michael Flynn. “It’s a long weekend, you guys have three days to follow up on those questions,” McEnany said, “and I certainly hope the next time I ask, some hands go up, because Obama’s spokesperson should be asked those questions, because President Trump’s spokespeople certainly would be.”
Wallace arrogantly harked back to the good old days when he and ABC’s former White House correspondent Sam Donaldson were performing the same duties for their respective networks. “I have to say that if Kayleigh McEnany had told Sam Donaldson and me what questions we should ask,” Wallace remarked to fellow snarker Jonah Goldberg, “that would not have gone well, Jonah.” Wallace added that “Kayleigh McEnany isn’t acting like she is working for the public. She acts like she is what she used to be, which is a spokesperson for the Trump campaign.”
Wallace did not act like he was trying to serve the public as an objective news show anchor. Instead, he attacked McEnancy personally. He didn’t have the decency to give her a chance to respond in real-time on his program.
Wallace has previously charged that President Trump “is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.” In making this preposterous claim, Wallace overlooked historical instances of outright government censorship of the press during the administrations of John Adams and Woodrow Wilson, as well as the secret surveillance of the press by the Obama administration. Wallace’s complaint with both President Trump and his current press secretary is that they are calling out the media for false reporting and unprofessionalism. Wallace’s response is not rational debate. He traffics in personal insults, as he did against McEnancy most recently.
Never-Trumper Goldberg was even more insulting. “What Donald Trump wants in a press secretary is a Twitter troll,” Goldberg said, “who goes on attack, doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have and instead wants to impress the — really an audience of one, and make another part of official Washington another one of these essentially cable news and Twitter gladiatorial arenas.”
The White House correspondents are not used to being reminded of the ethical responsibilities of their profession. They probably have not bothered to read the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which the partisan faux “journalists” violate with abandon. First and foremost, the code says, ethical journalism “strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough.” While journalists have a “special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government,” they are expected under the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics to take “responsibility for the accuracy of their work.” This means, according to the ethics code, verifying what they plan to report before release. It means avoiding misrepresentation or over-simplification. It means never deliberately distorting facts or context. Finally, it means correcting and updating throughout the life of a news story the information the journalists previously disseminated.
For more than three years, left-leaning cable TV outlets such as MSNBC and CNN, along with their print counterparts at the New York Times and Washington Post, peddled as a continuing “news story” the Russian collusion hoax. They didn’t just report the information available to them at the time after careful fact-checking. Instead, they disseminated lies or half-truths to paint President Trump and his administration in the worst possible light. Corrections were few and far between. The rare corrections lacked the prominence given to the original incorrect stories. After the Russian collusion bubble was burst, the partisan media unsurprisingly did not apologize for misleading the public. Instead, they doubled down on their unethical behavior and avoided or grossly downplayed any information that would counter their anti-Trump narrative.
“Avoid stereotyping,” the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics says. “Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.” The code urges journalists to “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.” Today’s Trump-hating media flunk these ethical standards on all counts.
Chris Wallace needs to look in the mirror. So do the present members of the White House Correspondents Association. This exclusive club even had the audacity in April to try barring the conservative One America News Network’s White House correspondent Chanel Rion from the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefings. They used the pretext of social distancing to justify their crass maneuver. However, what really upset them was Rion’s asking President Trump for comment after various White House correspondents had used the race card against President Trump for calling the virus that originated in China the “Chinese virus.” Fortunately, the White House Correspondents Association’s exclusionary tactics failed. The White House briefing room does not belong to the White House Correspondents Association. It belongs to the White House, the peoples’ house. It’s time that the leftwing media get over themselves and start practicing the ethical standards of their own profession.
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