In high-school journalism classes, teenaged would-be reporters are taught to value curiosity and independent thinking above all. Question powerful people, they’re told, and don’t trust anything anyone says, even if it’s Mom telling you she loves you.
Too bad most actual, adult reporters and editors these days don’t follow these rules when it comes to covering powerful liberals.
Witness the reaction of nearly all mainstream media to The Post’s bombshell reporting on the Hunter Biden Files, which recently garnered yet another boost of verification — this one courtesy of the illustrious vice-presidential son himself, who revealed that federal authorities are probing his “taxes.”
The probe appears to be much wider than that, in fact. Politico and the Times report that investigators across several jurisdictions are looking into potential money-laundering involving Hunter’s foreign ties and his finances generally. CNN says “at least one of the matters investigators have examined is a 2017 gift of a 2.8-carat diamond that Hunter Biden received” from an executive of a state-backed Chinese energy firm.
Oh, now they tell us.
In the weeks before the election, these and many other outlets proved themselves decidedly incurious about all of this, even as other sources came forward to verify the allegations, and Hunter and his father refused to dispute the authenticity of the e-mails upon which The Post’s reporting was based.
In fact, the one thing the media weren’t interested in was the truth or falsity of The Post’s reporting. The message — which they all read off in unison, as if they had all received the same memo — was that the Hunter Files were “disinformation,” possibly planted by the Kremlin, and certainly not worthy of looking into.
At CNN, the same outlet now reporting on Hunter’s alleged whoopsies, reporter Alexis Benveniste published a piece headlined “The Anatomy of the New York Post’s Dubious Hunter Biden Story,” in which she triumphantly celebrated the fact that “the media world has largely ignored the Post’s Hunter Biden story.”
Her colleague and CNN media reporter Brian Stelter claimed that “this is a classic example of the right-wing media machine.” Really? How did Stelter know that? Had he or his colleagues done any non-cursory, original reporting to prove or disprove The Post’s claims? As it was, all the CNN team did was to fling slime at The Post and our sources.
The very few reporters who dared press Joe Biden about his son’s foreign shenanigans, meanwhile, came under severe attack — not just by the ex-veep himself, but by their own colleagues. CBS’ Bo Erickson took enormous heat for gently asking Biden to comment.
Greg Sargent of The Washington Post reproached Erickson on Twitter: “The real problem here is this is a useless question from a journalistic perspective. It won’t inform people or hold Biden accountable in any meaningful way. Large parts of the story are invented/unconfirmed/highly dubious. What is learned by placing the work of denying them on Biden?”
National Public Radio outdid all other outlets for sheer incuriosity. Asked why hadn’t NPR touched the Hunter Files, news editor Terence Samuel answered: “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions. And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.”
Taxpayers who fund NPR can’t ask for a refund.
Some writers took things further. It wasn’t enough to be incurious about an account of apparent graft involving one of two major-party presidential candidates — those who had been curious had to be shamed. The Never Trump stalwart David Frum seethed: “The people on the far right and far left who publicized the obviously bogus New York Post story were not dupes. They were accomplices.”
And as if all that weren’t enough to quash public debate about a matter of public importance, the Silicon Valley Bros removed the story from the purview of a vast swath of America that primarily gets its news from Twitter and Facebook.
All this bodes ill for the media’s performance under a Biden administration: Why would the same journalists who felt called to play defense for Candidate Biden now manage to hold him accountable as most powerful man in the world?
Meanwhile, we really should stop teaching those noble old adages about journalism to kids. Wanna be a reporter, Junior? Learn not to think for yourself and not to ask tough questions of certain powerful people.
Sohrab Ahmari is The Post’s op-ed editor.