Liberals boasted that the election of Joe Biden meant a return to sober, restrained presidential rhetoric and an end to unhinged mean tweets. Biden wouldn't be a divider; he'd be a uniter to get things done. That's nothing like current reality. But when Biden uncorks crazy hot talk, the media are supportive repeaters.
On July 16, NBC reporter Peter Alexander tossed a softball: "On COVID misinformation, what's your message to platforms like Facebook?" Biden gave a wild-eyed answer: "They're killing people." He said it twice. NBC, as well as CBS and PBS, just passed it along — with some Facebook denial that they were murderers — and no fact-checking or Republican rebuttal emerged. ABC's "World News Tonight" skipped it, like it was embarrassing.
After the weekend, Biden bizarrely walked it back. "My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I'm saying 'Facebook is killing people,' that they would do something about the misinformation," Biden said. That's literally what he said — and journalists didn't seem to find it was even impolite to Facebook.
On July 13, the president unleashed a hyperbolic speech in Philadelphia on voting-integrity bills. He accused Republicans of "An assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are — who we are as Americans. ... This is election subversion. It's the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history."
He mangled history: "We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That's not hyperbole." And he said, "The 21st-century Jim Crow assault is real. It's unrelenting, and we're going to challenge it vigorously."
So, Biden can suggest today's Republicans are just like southern Democrats who enforced a rigid regime of racial segregation and mob lynchings. In other venues, Biden has poisonously claimed the Republicans made "Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle" and represent "Jim Crow on steroids."
This latest mean-spirited, mudslinging speech was hailed by the network anchors. David Muir on ABC touted the president "blasting what he calls attacks on voting rights." Norah O'Donnell on CBS proclaimed Biden was "speaking out forcefully." On NBC, Lester Holt announced, "In some of his strongest language yet, President Biden today blasting Republican efforts to restrict voting access as un-American and a test of our democracy."
The front page of The New York Times the next day carried the headline "Biden Portrays a Right to Vote as Under Siege." The "Jim Crow" junk was quoted in the very last paragraph.
Five days later, ABC "This Week" moderator Martha Raddatz was still praising this attack as "a very impassioned speech to defend voting rights," and AP Washington bureau chief Julie Pace added, "Rhetorically, Biden is saying all of the right things that Democrats want to hear." But both admitted the Democrat push for their For the People Act is dead in the water.
Enough time has elapsed to evaluate how the fact-checkers performed on this wild "Jim Crow assault" talk. Did AP Fact Check have it? No. CNN Facts First team? No. The Washington Post Fact Checker? No. FactCheck.org? No. Snopes? No. PolitiFact? No.
Amazingly, PolitiFact did check one statement in this speech: Biden proclaiming, "In 2020, more people voted in America than ever in the history of America." They awarded him a "Mostly True" rating for that.
This is an ongoing pattern. The so-called independent fact-checkers have given Biden a free pass to smear Republicans with a "Jim Crow" brush. It's fair for Biden to accuse them of the worst attack on voting rights since the Civil War. He isn't checked by journalists. He's praised for "speaking out forcefully."
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.