CNN’s Jake Tapper held a Reddit Ask Me Anything forum Wednesday, and the subject of media bias came up. Tapper tends to be one of the more honest members of the White House press corpse, admitted that bias exists — but offered his colleagues a limited hangout.
“Do you believe there is bias in mainstream media?” a Reddit user asked. “If yes, which way does it slant and which networks?”
“Yes I do,” Tapper replied, “but I also think it’s more complicated than just liberal bias.”
“I think there are a lot of hard-working reporters in NYC and DC who have never fired a gun, or never worked a 9-5 manual labor job, or lived in the middle of the country, or worried about their next paycheck, or have anyone in their family who serves in the military and I think that creates a cultural bias,” he continued.
“But I also think there are a lot of reporters who work to counter that and understand the limitations of their own realities,” Tapper concluded. “But yes, I do think there is bias. Reluctant to name names though because I try to be collegial.”
Tapper couldn’t be more right about how his colleagues report on firearms. Add in church life, hunting, sports, and on and on and on. But the bias is not merely cultural.
On Tuesday, Beltway reporters had the chance to ask President Obama for his thoughts on how Obamacare’s first week had gone. That first week has been an unmitigated disaster. Here are all of the questions that the White House press actually asked the president.
AP’s Julie Pace:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Obviously if Congress does pass a clean CR and a clean debt ceiling bill, those may just be short-term measures. If that happens, does your offer to negotiate with them on issues like health care and spending and deficit reduction still stand in the intervening weeks if they pass measures that are just perhaps six weeks or two months long?
Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You laid out the economic consequences of default, but if we were to get to that point, would you prioritize and pay bondholders first to maintain the semblance of credit or — rather than Social Security recipients or military servicemen and -women? And how would you go ahead and make that determination?
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. With Speaker Boehner so far unwilling to hold a vote on a clean CR, what assurances can you give to those affected by a shutdown who are concerned about an even longer impasse? And how worried are you personally that your preferred solution to this clean CR and sequestration levels may do harm to the nation’s economy and your second-term agenda?
Reuters’ Roberta Rampton:
Q: Thanks. You talked a bit about the hit to credibility around the world that this impasse has caused. I’m wondering what you and your administration are telling worried foreign creditors, China and Japan, who are calling and then asking about whether the United States is going to avoid defaulting on its debts?
NPR’s Ari Shapiro:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned the Supreme Court, and the term started today with a campaign finance case that sort of picks up where Citizens United left off. You called Citizens United devastating to the public interest, so I wonder if you could weigh in on this latest case.
The New York Times’ Mark Landler:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. This week the president of China has visited several of the Asian countries that you were going to visit and have had to skip because of the shutdown.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right.
Q: He’s also taken a big role at the two regional summits, both of which your administration has made a pretty big priority of as part of the broader Asian pivot. Does China benefit from the chaos in Washington? And then more broadly, you’ve said in general that this hurts the reputation of the United States overseas. Are there specific things that you can point to where you already have seen some damage?
And the one that occurs to me is the trade deal that you’ve tried to do in Asia. The leaders today announced that they still want to wrap it up, but they no longer are able to say they want to wrap it up by the end of this year.
Had you been there, do you think you could have gotten that additional push?
Financial Times‘ Richard McGregor asked about paying foreign creditors in the event of a US government default. Stephen Dennis asked about the possibility us naming a congressional committee to deal with the government shutdown. Stephen Kalitz asked a question about Africa and terrorism. CBS’ Mark Knoller at least asked Obama a tough question, though it had nothing to do with the failure of the president’s signature policy.
Q: Mr. President, while you’re waiting for the shutdown to end, why is it that you can’t go along with any of the bills the House is passing funding the FDA and FEMA, where you were yesterday, and veterans benefits and Head Start? You’ve got to be tempted to sign those bills and get funding to those programs that you support.
After Knoller, there was one more question — about the “political dynamics” of the shutdown.
The White House press never asked President Obama one single question about the spectacular failure of his signature policy across its first week of implementation. The White House press never asked Obama about the National Park Service harassing veterans, closing self-sufficient parks, or the threats to priests or the shuttering of armed forces tv broadcasts.
Not one question. Cultural bias alone does not explain that. Political bias does, and the White House intimidating reporters away from asking tough questions probably does too.