Former President Barack Obama lamented the fact that President Donald Trump won 71 million votes in the 2020 election, blaming the “current media environment” for a supposed lack of an “informed citizenry.” He called for “the media” and “the tech companies” to “inform the public better” and “separate truth from fiction.” Obama said this just as Facebook, Twitter, and legacy media outlets have worked to bury or undermine important stories like the Hunter Biden emails and the irregularities in the 2020 election.
In an interview aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday, CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley lamented that the 2020 election (the results of which are still disputed) wasn’t a clear repudiation of Trump.
“President-Elect Biden won in this election more votes than anyone in history,” Pelley noted. “And yet, the 2020 vote wasn’t a repudiation of Donald Trump; it was more like an affirmation. He received 71 million votes, eight million more than he did in 2016. What does that tell you about our country today?”
Obama said the results show that America is “very divided,” even down to the level of the voters. “It has now become a contest where issues, facts, policies per se don’t matter, as much as identity and wanting to beat the other guy. You know, that’s taken priority. I do think the current media environment adds to that greatly. This democracy doesn’t work if we don’t have an informed citizenry,” he argued.
Pelley noted that Americans appear to hate one another at levels not seen since the Civil War. Obama said, “I think we’d like to avoid that.”
He suggested that Joe Biden will set a new tone, but he encouraged the legacy media and tech companies like Facebook and Twitter to pose as arbiters of truth, as if that will defuse partisan gridlock.
“I do think that a new president can set a new tone. That’s not gonna solve all the gridlock in Washington. I think we’re gonna have to work with the media and with the tech companies to find ways to inform the public better about the issues and to bolster the standards that ensure we can separate truth from fiction,” Obama said.
To his credit, the former president went on to encourage more work on the local level, where “that kind of visceral hatred” is less likely to develop. Even so, Obama clearly encouraged more “fact-checking” from the legacy media and tech companies — a trend that conservatives have rightly condemned as a form of censorship.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, The New York Post reported on a trove of emails from the laptop of Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden. Hunter Biden had been notorious for cashing in on his father’s famous name, taking lucrative deals in China, Ukraine, and elsewhere. The new documents suggested that — contrary to his repeated denials — Joe Biden was not only aware of his son’s dealings but involved in them.
Twitter and Facebook limited sharing of The New York Post‘s bombshell report, while legacy media outlets largely ignored it. After the Post story failed to get the kind of traction many expected it would, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, came forward with firsthand knowledge — and evidence — tying Joe Biden to the notorious deals.
Democrats, former intelligence officials, and even the Biden campaign claimed — without evidence — that the story was “Russian disinformation.” Not only did numerous sources debunk that claim, but Vladimir Putin himself came out to vouch for Hunter Biden.
According to a Media Research Center (MRC) survey, most Americans (73 percent) had heard about the scandal, but Biden voters proved to be the group least likely to know about the damning revelations. A small percentage of Biden voters who hadn’t heard about the scandal said that if they had known before the election, they would not have voted for Biden. About 4.6 percent of Biden voters overall took this position. Had the legacy media and Big Tech not suppressed the story, those voters may have handed the election to Trump.
After the election, as Trump challenged the preliminary results, many legacy media outlets and Big Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have parrotted the line that there was “no evidence of systematic fraud” in the election. In fact, Twitter repeatedly claimed that there was no reason to worry about mail-in voting, despite the fact that mail-in voting has historically enabled fraud, as presidential commissions have repeatedly warned.
On Friday, Twitter slapped a disclaimer on a tweet from former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. “Despite what the media tells us, election fraud does happen, and policies like ballot harvesting and mailing ballots to people who don’t request them make it easier. That needs to stop,” Haley had tweeted.
Twitter put a disclaimer, saying “This claim about election fraud is disputed.” Yet Haley was not claiming that the 2020 election results were illegitimate. She had only warned about two mail-in voting practices that increase the potential for fraud.
She called out the company for a blatant double standard, noting that Twitter did not slap a disclaimer on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameinei when he raised doubts about the reality of the Holocaust.
“Wow. When Iran’s Ayatollah says the Holocaust didn’t happen, Twitter doesn’t say ‘this claim is disputed.’ When I say ballot harvesting makes election fraud easier Twitter says that’s disputed. Wonder why conservatives don’t trust big tech?” Haley responded.
Twitter appears to have removed the label after this backlash.
Wow. When Iran’s Ayatollah says the Holocaust didn’t happen, Twitter doesn’t say “this claim is disputed.” When I say ballot harvesting makes election fraud easier Twitter says that’s disputed. Wonder why conservatives don’t trust big tech? pic.twitter.com/5SGkqyOhUe
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) November 13, 2020
Obama may not support specific instances of suppression like these, but his call for more “fact-checking” from the legacy media and Big Tech companies translates to adverse action against conservatives online.
To be fair, conservatives do share false information from time to time, as do their opponents on the Left. It is important to combat fake news and misinformation. However, much of the recent crackdown on “misinformation” often boils down to a biased interpretation of the facts and a demand that Facebook and Twitter brook no dissent from the Left’s narrative.
Some people may have bad motives for supporting Trump, and the president has told his share of falsehoods. However, that does not mean that every Trump supporter is motivated by fake news or irrational hatred. There are good reasons to disagree with the Left’s orthodoxy on climate change, Marxist critical race theory, abortion, relations with Israel, and so many other issues.
Support for Trump does not boil down to “misinformation,” and further attempts from the legacy media and Big Tech to silence dissent from the Left’s orthodoxy will only enflame partisan fear, not defuse it.
“This democracy doesn't work if we don't have an informed citizenry. [It] doesn't work if we don't have responsible elected officials… who are willing to call the president when he's not doing something right, call him on it,” says former President Obama. https://t.co/PBGwBymHbR pic.twitter.com/Cx1qqK0mzK
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) November 16, 2020
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.