Columns

'But Trump' Is Not a Valid Excuse for Journalists Not Doing Their Jobs

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

How many more times are journalists going to use “But Trump” as an excuse for not doing their job when it comes to issues that should be apolitical? The most recent example of this is the COVID-19 lab-leak hypothesis. For some reason, Democrats and the legacy media thought it too absurd to consider the idea that a pathogen that causes illness in humans could have leaked from a Level IV laboratory in the same city in which the infection first appeared.

These great thinkers could not see that there were three options their political adversaries were considering. People like Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were always ready to accept proof of natural origin. However, they were also open to other possibilities—including an accidental release of a wild virus or an engineered virus—and insisted that all options be investigated given the lab’s proximity to the origins of COVID-19.

The last two possibilities seemed to be supported by members of the administration, including the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The corporate media boiled this down to allegations of a bioweapon and dismissed it as a conspiracy theory. As with everything else, once President Trump, a member of his cabinet, or a Republican who appeared aligned with him said something, our firefighter class lost all ability to deal in nuance.

Related: Classified Lab Report From 2020 Concluded Lab Leak Theory Was ‘Plausible’

Our intellectual betters attributed these allegations to some deep-seated xenophobia among Republicans. Based on virtually no scientific evidence, some opinion letters were held up as evidence of a natural origin. The corporate media and social media censored all dissenters. According to the approved expert class, the idea was so thoroughly debunked that anyone who uttered it risked being banned or censored.

This nonsense went on for well over a year, despite legacy media companies having science reporters who were more than capable of doing the work Nicholas Wade finally did. In early May, Wade wrote a long and detailed post on Medium detailing the evidence for all three of the initial arguments. Unfortunately, the evidence for natural release was thin at best.

Tucker Carlson highlighted Wade’s reporting on his show–and like magic, BuzzFeed released Dr. Anthony Fauci’s e-mails to the public within days. Dozens of eggs met the faces of reporters in the legacy media. Immediately they went into damage-control mode. To a person, the excuse was basically, “Well, Trump said it, so it was not incumbent on us to take it seriously.” As if the fact Trump was president excused them from doing their job.

Jonathan Karl at ABC News used this excuse. Maggie Haberman from the New York Times used it in a CNN appearance. David Frum, in an attempt to defend the media’s misconduct, wrote an entire think piece blaming Trump and his supporters for the pandemic. Then he accused the  proponents of the lab-leak hypothesis of politicizing the issue. There are just a few problems with this defense.

First, not all supporters of the lab-leak hypothesis were Trump supporters. Evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein always gave a reasoned argument for that position and asserted he could not rule out man-made features. So did other knowledgeable guests on his  “Dark Horse” podcast. These scientists could hardly be described as hardcore Trumpers. Weinstein was not shy about saying so:

The other big problem is that the turnover rate of those in our intelligence agencies and the federal bureaucracy is, in general, not high. Only the presidential appointees running the agencies and a few of their immediate staff change when the administration changes. But the worker bees don’t. This phenomenon is why Dr. Fauci has served every president since Reagan. So the people providing the intelligence and analysis for the Trump administration are essentially the same as those collecting and summarizing it for the Biden administration.

The legacy media knows this and likely has sources within those agencies that have not changed. However, rather than look for evidence or research their position, their response was simply reflexive–and censorship of the view followed. The corporate media’s complete lack of curiosity about COVID-19’s origins may be the most consequential example of journalist malpractice and censorship under the “But Trump” philosophy since we may never know the truth now. However, it is not the only one.

When President Trump went mask-free outdoors after recovering from COVID-19, asserting he was immune, he was called a science denier. Trump was highly confident Regeneron helped him recover, but the New York Times called his endorsement “a double-edged sword.” Trump said, “The cure can’t be worse than the problem itself” and “We’re learning to live with COVID-19.” He also pushed to get our children back in school.

It turns out he was correct about immunity after recovering, and there is a near-zero risk of COVID-19 transmission outdoors with or without masks. Regeneron was added to the NIH treatment protocol seven months after his recovery. States that took his statements to heart and reopened, outperformed or performed no worse than the states that locked down everything for over a year. No state that opened schools had significant outbreaks, and studies now show transmission in open schools was lower than in the community.

We are also just beginning to see other effects of the lockdown such as record rates of teen emergency room visits for mental health, missed cancers, and ruined livelihoods. Not to mention the many issues we will see for years in our children’s education and mental health. So the “But Trump” excuse from the legacy media should ring very hollow as we calculate the total cost to health, the economy, and our children going forward. And we should never trust them in an emergency again.