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The Daily Beast Commits Pretty Significant Media Malpractice in Piece Blaming Ukraine on Trump

Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

On Saturday, The Daily Beast tweeted out an article from Shannon Vavra, claiming "GOP Blames Biden for Russian Aggression. Don’t Forget About Trump." The article and tweet come after former President Donald Trump has already been out of office for more than a year, and with Russian aggression from Vladimir Putin increasing under President Joe Biden's watch.

Vavra cites former diplomats and military when criticizing Trump, relitigating actions that the then-president took with Ukraine in 2017 and 2019. When she does cite Republicans, it's usually with its own added comment criticizing their points. 

For example:

Of course, Republicans see the situation very differently. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has already laid the blame for an attack that hasn’t happened yet at Biden’s feet.

”It is a result of a year of Joe Biden’s impotence and incompetence towards Russia in particular and in foreign policy more generally,” Cotton said during a press conference this week, calling out decisions he thinks Biden has made, like when he was allegedly “looking the other way at the Colonial Pipeline hack.”

Even those offhand remarks reek of major revisionism. Russian hackers hit Colonial Pipeline with a ransomware attack last year, after which Biden responded by calling out Russian actors, warning the United States could respond with a cyberattack of its own against Russia—a marked departure from Trump, who frequently looked the other way at Russian cyber and information operations. Biden also told Putin himself to cut it out.


Still, Republicans have either forgotten or are recreating Trump’s role in the current standoff. Some are bizarrely blaming the Democrats’ legislative agenda for an impending invasion. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said the left’s “election takeover hysteria” had “overshadowed what’s happening right now between Russia and Ukraine.”

With regards to Sen. Cotton's comments, which Vavra claims "reek of major revisionism," the piece makes no mention of how Democrats who have railed against the filibuster, used it themselves to block sanctions against Russia. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had introduced legislation that would have imposed sanctions on businesses tied to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The vote was 55-44. 

Vavra's piece is a gross example of media malpractice in other ways though, considering that there is very little in-depth discussion as to why Biden would be to blame, including and especially as he is now the president in office. Perhaps worst of all is how there isn't even mention of Biden's comments from Wednesday's press conference. "I think what you're going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera," the president had said

It wasn't just Republicans who were shocked by the remarks, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Vavra didn't mention him either in her piece, except in the context of his interactions with then-President Trump. 

Fittingly, Vavra's piece was ratioed on Twitter, a many were quick to call out the continued obsession with Trump.

Another Republican not mentioned in Vavra's piece includes Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who is the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He appeared on Sunday's edition of CBS' "Face the Nation," during which he told host Margaret Brennan that he, like President Zelensky, believes in imposing the sanctions now. As I covered earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated during his own appearance that he is not ready to impose them yet. 

McCaul also emphasized that Biden appears "weak" to Putin, and has at least since Afghanistan:

...I think this all started, MARGARET, with Afghanistan and the unconditional surrender to the Taliban when he saw weakness, weakness invites aggression. We saw that with Chamberlain and Hitler. You know, Reagan talked about peace through strength. And right now, whether- and-and the thing is, this is not just about Ukraine. It's about China. It's about President Xi and Taiwan. It's about the Ayatollah and the bomb. It's about North Korea that just fired off two missiles, they said, were, you know, these, you know, these hypersonic weapons. I think this has broader global ramifications. We're seen as weak right now be-because of President Biden, his-his comments about a limited- a limited invasion was somehow acceptable, and that NATO was divided. I think one thing he said was true is that NATO is divided, and that's- Putin's goal is to divide and weaken NATO. He's accomplished some of that.

And, going back to those comments made at the Wednesday press conference, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) has shared that the negative reaction towards them came from both Democrats and Republicans. "I can tell you from private conversations that I had on the floor of the Senate shortly after the president's press conference, there was distress among Democrats and Republicans about what the president had said," he told Greta van Susteren, as Caroline Vakil reported for The Hill.

Despite having gone to Ukraine and being a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was also not referenced in Vavra's piece.


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