The “Politico Playbook” announced the breaking spin over the breaking news: “Johnson is about to become for Democrats what Nancy Pelosi was for Republicans: a base-motivating, money-raising boogeyman who embodies everything they dislike most about the other party. At least that’s what Democrats are hoping.”
Politico added Democrats will paint Johnson, R-La., as “an election denier, an anti-abortion extremist and a slasher of Social Security and Medicare.” Surprise, surprise: That’s the tone the networks struck in their first evening news reports.
In the first seconds of “NBC Nightly News,” anchor Lester Holt announced: “Meet the new speaker, little-known Congressman Mike Johnson, a hard-line conservative from Louisiana.” Seconds later, Holt called him a “hard-right conservative.” Then Garrett Haake underlined he was a “staunch conservative on issues like abortion and government spending.”
On CBS, anchor Norah O’Donnell declared, “The staunch conservative wants a federal ban on abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage.” Reporter Nikole Killion added, “he managed to unite both the hard-right and establishment flanks of the party.”
ABC’s Rachel Scott said Johnson is “staunchly anti-abortion rights” and “not in favor of protections for same-sex marriage.” He even “voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act” in 2021. Why? There were gun rights issues and religious liberty issues with it. But it’s too much fun to imply he favors violence against women.
Journalists wanted to press Republicans on why they would support Johnson. On PBS, anchor Geoff Bennett pressed Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa: “Mike Johnson is more genial than Jim Jordan, but he’s no less a hard-liner. He is on the far right of the spectrum when it comes to issues like reproductive rights, same-sex marriage.”
It should be obvious that Democrats hold staunchly opposite positions from the “ultraconservative hard-liners,” but there are no “ultraliberal hard-liners.”
When far-left Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stepped down from the speaker’s job last November, ABC and NBC hailed her as a “hero” and an “icon” whose reign was “legendary.” CBS hailed her as an “outsized political force for a generation.”
When Democrats then elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to replace Pelosi as their party leader, PBS (and the others) hailed him as “the first black lawmaker to head a major political party in Congress.” That was a two-sentence story, with no drama.
Political observers could say the House Democrats are clearly more disciplined and organized. But it should also be said that these pro-Democrat media outlets create no incentives for publicly rocking the boat. Decisions are kept behind caucus doors, and reporters are ready to hail the results after it’s all over.
It’s especially rich that these networks would throw “election denier” at Johnson when they wouldn’t lob that insult at Jeffries, who routinely called Donald Trump an “illegitimate” president and denied his election at least 13 times, by the GOP’s counting.
Reporters huffed and puffed when Republicans booed questions about “election deniers,” insisting it was a “fair question” to Johnson. But it’s not fair when only one party is pressed on denying election results.
These anti-Republican and pro-Democrat tactics never changed. When House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was pushed out in 2015, a monthlong NewsBusters study found they described Republicans as “conservative” more than 100 times, and as “far-right” or its equivalents in 35 of those uses.
No House Democrat was “far left.” Reporters are left-wing extremists like Pelosi and Jeffries, so they see themselves as the “sensible center.”
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