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Riffed from the Headlines

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File

Welcome to a new daily VIP feature here at Townhall, where we will be focusing coverage on the practice of journalism in the nation. While not a shock to many that the press operates as an industry with a pre-determined narrative in mind, what is revealing is how many different ways they perform this goal and how widespread the practice. With "Riffed from the Headlines," we will bring accountability to the mishaps, misdeeds, manipulations, malpractice, and manufactured narratives in the mainstream media. This will be a daily post with updates added throughout each day, so check back frequently to see the latest efforts as we delve into the realm of ethical contortions found in the press. 

05.17.21 (Update)


Joining the ranks of the media members who cannot seem to find objectivity with a metal detector and a divining rod, The Washington Post offers up this completely impacted assessment of the conflict currently taking place. 

First, we get this warped justification for the attacks from Palestine: “HAMAS...has fired more than 1,700 rockets into Israel since Monday, in response to the threat of eviction of Palestinian residents in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.” So because they thought something might take place, launching nearly 2,000 rockets was a completely justified response. 

But the best is that Israel having superior defense systems – the Iron Dome – which WaPo admits has saved lives, is the biggest problem preventing peace in the area. 

“The unintended consequences of this protective system complicate the story — by reducing the expected costs of bombing Gaza, Iron Dome allows Israel to act with less concern for civilian casualties, and gives Israel less incentive to find a political solution to its conflict with Gaza.” 

Pounce Of Prevention – THE HILL

  • They must have run out of reaction verbs so now they are doubling up.

As the Critical Race Theory debate continues to be waged between schools and parents there is a need to cast the reaction from the Right in a negative fashion – but what is an outlet to do in order to stand out? The Hill came up with a solution. 

It almost feels like seizing on a backlash is like a double-negative, so maybe conservatives are actually supporting it in this fashion? 


  • In a matter of weeks, an individual goes from an oppressed social activist to being a DNC operative

Earlier this month, the Florida paper was part of a coordinated hit on Governor Ron DeSantis. There was a list of items they gave to show how he was operating like a dictator, such as peeling back government restrictions and letting citizens live more free. One of those oppressive examples was how a protestor was kept away from an event. “Thomas Kennedy was blocked from attending a recent outdoor event on the grounds of the seaport in Miami, a government agency. Kennedy, an immigration reform advocate, loudly disrupted a DeSantis press event last year.” 

Then this weekend there were protests in Miami over the Israeli conflict, and Kennedy was in attendance, but sporting a completely different title provided by the same newspaper. “Thomas Kennedy, a Democratic National Committee member, said he was embarrassed to be the only Democratic Party official that he knew of in attendance.” 

Stories Avoided – (NUMEROUS MEDIA)

While on a seeming quest to become deported from our country for simply being insufferable, Prince Harry appeared on the podcast with actor Dax Shepard and spoke at length about the First Amendment. "I don't want to start sort of going down the First Amendment route because that's a huge subject and one in which I don't understand,” said the Prince, who clearly did want to start. Few beyond the conservative media sphere seem interested in what he had to say. 

I've only been here a short period of time," he continued, "I’ve got so much I want to say about the First Amendment as I sort of understand it, but it is bonkers." To put this in perspective, the guy was on a nationally broadcast podcast, following his in-depth interview on primetime television, and just ahead of his new program debuting this week on Apple+. Bonkers is why someone who professed the need to have his privacy reestablished cannot seem to stay away from the public spotlight. 

05.17.21 (Original)

Double Standards – NBC NEWS 

The host of the news program invalidated his own rationale for having on Rep. Dan Crenshaw by calling out the entire GOP as a cabal of liars. “Why should anybody believe a word that you say if the Republican party itself doesn't have credibility?” This - is - magnificent. A member of the recidivist lying media complex trying to act pompous about the truth. 

Throughout his exchange with Crenshaw, you saw the media gambit on display. The congressman continued to explain that the Liz Cheney vote is not high drama in the party and with the voters. Todd would try to insist that the GOP is obsessed with the vote result, except it was the host himself who refused to talk about anything else but the vote result. As a note, watch his immediate follow-up interview with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who is famed for repeating liberal talking points and is a firm Liz Cheney supporter. Gone are any of the combative questions and the hostile approach Crenshaw was served.

Anti-Social Media – CNN 

  • No better way for a Mid-East contributor to contribute to the strife in the region than to suggest there is a new need for Hitler. 

First, recall that anytime anybody says something hateful or intolerant and can be connected to a conservative outlet, they are deemed to be representing the views of the entire source. I bring that practice up because CNN had a contributor of theirs – Adeel Raja – put out a tweet in response to the latest Israeli upheaval with a garish comment in support of Adolf Hitler, in direct reference to the latest developments.

Now, if you are inclined to excuse CNN on this matter, just understand that Raja has been in their employ for years. Also taking place for years – his tweets in support of Hitler specifically aimed at the Jews. Hard to understand how this freelancer has gotten by for so long on their payroll.

News Avoidance Syndrome – NUMEROUS MEDIA

Huh, it would almost appear the data contradicts the narrative – no wonder the poll-loving media seem to be running away from this poll.

Evolving Narratives – THE WASHINGTON POST 

  • WaPo stated the company operating the pipeline that was shut down by hackers days earlier had no plans to pay the ransom...that it had already paid in the first few hours

In their detailed report on the hack of the Colonial Pipeline, WaPo declared their inside sources told them the company would not pay up. “Colonial and its cybersecurity consultants were working to secure its servers, having decided not to pay a ransom demanded by foreign hackers, according to two people familiar with the matter.” The problem? Later reports would declare the company already paid the ransom – on the very same day of the attack on its system. 

As Bloomberg detailed, “The company paid the hefty ransom in difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency within hours after the attack.”

Faulty Corroboration – REUTERS 



Early on, we get a sense of how slobbering the detailed look behind the scenes of the Biden White House will be from one of the three writers – Michael D. Shear, Katie Rogers, or Annie Karni. We are told how Biden has a lengthy decision-making process; “Quick decision-making is not Mr. Biden’s style,” they write, in a surprise to no one who has seen him speak. The hours of conferencing, we learn, and the time spent with “scores” of policy experts is not the sign of a rudderless mind – no, this is Joe Biden's “Socratic journey” on the way to a decision. 

But staffers also fear incurring his wrath if they overload him with details and abbreviations. These instances might deliver “an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity,” leading to this summation by The Times’ writers:Let’s talk plain English here, he will often snap.” This sure sounds at odds with Biden's own pledge at the start of his term that his staff would respect one another or risk being fired on the spot. 

Surely The Times takes exception with this behavior, right? Yea, hardly. “Mr. Biden is gripped by a sense of urgency that leaves him prone to flares of impatience, according to numerous people who regularly interact with him. He never erupts into fits of rage the way President Donald J. Trump did.” Quite the shift in tone here. During the Trump years, we frequently heard White House insiders report on President Trump's frequent outbursts as a sign he was unstable. These days, though, reporters learning directly that Biden demanding tons of information from many – but not TOO MUCH information or he’ll turn vulgar – is seen as quality leadership.

Anti-Social Media – MOTHER JONES 

CNN's media show "Reliable Sources" remains the most ironically titled program in news. Leave it to host Brian Stelter to not only entertain fringe reporters, like those from Mother Jones, but when they spout off with comments that would make a normal person flinch, or at least question their position, Stelter instead simply nods along.

Ari Berman was on to talk about the nefarious nature of the GOP and said, "I think the media needs to understand that the most important dividing line isn't between Democrats and Republicans; it's between Republicans versus democracy." He follows that up by giving a blithe admission – “We need to cover this not just through a partisan lens.” 

Stelter's challenge to this outlandishness. “Hmmm...” he responded thoughtfully before moving briskly along to the next topic. 

Evolving Narratives – CNN 

The CNN host runs into the “challenge” encountered by many citizens that he has helped to gloss over in the news. Maybe those rubes out in the hinterlands were onto something after all? 

Gilded Reframe – ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Just for openers, if they were in this particular building for 15 years and were completely unaware a terrorist organization was a fellow tenant, that calls into question their reporting from the area. But the impression by many in the press has been that Israel has not provided adequate information to support the claim of a Hamas presence. This is pure emotional outrage, and it is absent anything approaching journalism...while they allege oppression against journalism.

This charge carries with it the veiled accusation that Israel arbitrarily chose the building, or it possibly even focused on it for the media target. But their empty accusals also mean they were incapable of looking into the fact that Israel had briefed the U.S. about the Hamas location, and even President Biden was looped in by President Netanyahu on Saturday. “We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Funny that reporters were incapable of finding out this day-old detail. Even Brain Stelter was applauding himself for grilling an Israeli source on the matter instead of doing research. 

Pulitzer Prize Nomination – THE LOS ANGELES TIMES 

For years a former employee of Frito-Lay has been selling his tale about being the inventor of the wildly popular variation of the famed junk food, done seemingly with the company's support. Now, after a decade of speeches, a book, and selling the rights to a movie company – he has been outed as a fraud by the LA Times!


Prewritten Field Reports – NBC NEWS 

  • Savannah Guthrie sits down with Liz Cheney and gets to the bottom of her ouster – sexism.

As the deposed leader in the GOP sat down with a number of friendly media who would not challenge her too ardently, Liz Cheney kicked off her farewell tour with "The Today Show" and Savannah Guthrie. At one point, Guthrie actually asked, “Do you see sexism in anything that has gone on here?” Seriously – sexism. 

If this were a sexist problem within the GOP, Savannah, then Liz would never have been elevated to her position as #3 in the House leadership. Also – and this is just a small niggling detail, barely worth a mention – but her replacement in the same position was another female. It was probably sexist of me to point that out, but we are all about the facts, after all. 

Anti-Social Media – MSNBC 

In an unhinged response to the official statement from Rep. Elise Stefanik on her being voted to replace Liz Cheney, Matt Negrin calls the GOP leadership in The House “terrorists.” After insisting they are “adamantly spreading the Big Lie that the election was stolen,” (despite it being the media who incessantly bring up the topic), Negrin continues to unravel. “Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik tried to murder Democrats on Jan. 6 to stop the process of certifying the election.”

And now you know what you have been missing since Chris Matthews vacated that set. 

Artisanal-Crafted Narratives – (NUMEROUS MEDIA) 

Across the media landscape, the vote to remove Liz Cheney from her #3 spot in the House leadership was said to be massive news. Well, not across the entire landscape. Conservative news outlets were far from energetic in reporting on it in comparison to the liberal outlets. Brian Stelter even complained about this reality. 

In saying Fox News was not reporting on the story enough for his satisfaction, Brian boasted how CNN and MSNBC covered the Cheney story more than 300 times each in the past week, displaying their obsession with the story that they insisted was being driven by conservatives...while they were not talking about her enough...?

Pounce of Prevention – ASSOCIATED PRESS 

You might be thinking the spike in gas prices and the shortages seen in much of the country affects all Americans, but nope! Turns out those rascally Republicans are behind the negative hype. The news syndicate notes, “Conservatives seize on gas crunch to blame Biden.” Just conservatives are doing this. All others are apparently quite fine with the fuel issues. 

Evolving Plotlines – MSNBC

In an odd dose of admitted warped thinking, Rachel Maddow addressed the new CDC standard saying mask-wearing can be curtailed. She featured this development by saying she needs to completely adjust her mindset and no longer make judgments on people who forego the facial coverings. “I feel like I'm going to have to rewire myself so that when I see someone out in the world that's not wearing a mask, I don't instantly think, 'You are a threat,' or 'You are selfish,' or 'You are a Covid denier, and you definitely haven't vaccinated.'” And she went on with this odd confessional. “We are going to look at each other differently, and we are going to have to unwire our preconceptions on what a mask, or a lack of a mask, means.”

A rather astounding confession, where she not only announces that she has in fact been operating with these prejudicial thoughts on complete strangers, but this is perfectly normal behavior for her audience.


With the media and the Democrats lapsing into their usual position of opposing Israel's desire to defend itself from attacks, it was of little surprise to see members of "The Squad" belly-aching about our ally. Instead of highlighting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making disparaging remarks about the president supporting Israel (while the GOP is accused of being in civil disarray), Shane Goldmacher at The Times took a unique angle on Alex from the Bronx. It turns out everyone loves her campaign logo! 

What has everyone in progressive campaigns so impressed? She used a slanted text! But for all the credit being paid for numerous candidates replicating her style, she was not exactly pushing the avant-garde. According to one of the design teams: 

The color palette and speech bubble in the final design drew inspiration from Rosie the Riveter, Mr. Starrett said. The poster with her outward gaze was drawn from a Cesar Chavez stamp. And the overall look came from boxing, farmworker unionizing and luchador posters.

I don't think anyone is shocked to hear she stole ideas from past communist iconography.

Anti-Social Media – USA TODAY

The vote to remove Liz Cheney had many journalists in a froth, and the Deputy Editorial Page Editor from USA Today, David Mastio, had some scorchingly hot takes about it. He insists the vote to change leadership positions in the House means “Republicans prove they're a bigger threat than 9/11 hijackers.” 

To date, the death count between the May 12 vote and the September 11 attacks stands at 0 / 2,977, but this still stands as “proof” of them being the greater danger. 

Reporting On The Mirror – CNN 

After his Friday episode of “CNN Tonight,” the host announced, “This is the last night that we’ll be ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.'” He then goes on to say he “appreciates all the years,” but that “changes are coming.” Sure sounded rather definitive, but then, after there was a reaction on social media, Lemon sent out a tweet that implied people were overreacting and made it sound like everyone was acting foolish.

See, when he declared it was the last night of his show, and he was grateful for the support over the years, you all were stupid enough to make an assumption he was ending his show...I guess? Anyway, for all of you who were not watching him all this time, “Everybody calm down.” All he was alluding to was a name-change of the show


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