In abundant Democratic responses to State of the Union, a media contradicting itself

At least six Democrats will offer responses to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday night, showcasing bias and hypocrisy from the mainstream media.  

If the White House were occupied by a Democrat, and Republicans decided that one rebuttal wouldn't suffice, liberal media would be yapping with hurricane-force strength about a lack of unity and leadership in the GOP. We know this because it’s happened before.

Back in 2011, Michele Bachmann offered a Tea Party response after Paul Ryan delivered the official GOP version following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union. The speech was famously mocked because Bachmann appeared to be staring into the wrong camera, but critics on both sides of the political aisle also criticized conservatives as fractured for daring to allow more than one rebuttal. 

The Guardian wrote that Bachmann's speaking “showed just how fractured right-wing opposition has become,” while NPR’s Frank James noted that “it had the feeling of not just being opposed to Obama but in a way pushing back against GOP mainliners, too.”

Piers Morgan, then a CNN host,  said the “most fascinating thing” about Obama’s speech was the fact that two Republicans responded.

“The big story is, when push comes to shove … who is going to stand against President Obama?" he said to Wolf Biltzer. "Are we going to see a Tea Party candidate … a mainstream GOP candidate? I think it’s fascinating."

Morgan added, “If they don’t sort their act out, the Republicans, they’ve got real problems.”

He said Ryan and Bachmann were offering different views and said Republican voters were sure to be “confused” about the party’s leadership. 

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow slammed CNN for airing Bachmann’s response, repeatedly declaring that her speech wasn’t the official take.

“CNN decided [Bachmann] deserved equal billing with the official Republican response,” Maddow said. “Nobody quite knows what CNN was thinking in making this journalistic decision tonight …. but I am desperate to know what big Republican cheeses think of this.” 

July 19: Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.,  speaks during a political rally in downtown Aiken, S.C.

Michele Bachmann offered an alternative rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address in 2011.  (AP/The Augusta Chronicle)

Former RNC communications chief Doug Heye told Maddow that both Bachmann and Ryan had made strong arguments, but the MSNBC star didn’t agree. “Isn’t it a little bit weird, though, to have two responses run on a national news network as if they are equivalent?" she said. "Even if they weren’t particularly divergent responses … this does call into question whether the Tea Party response is the authentic conservative response, or whether the Republican Party really does have control over its own members and a unified message.” 

MSNBC did not immediately respond when asked how many responses the network will air on Tuesday. 

At the time of the two responses to the Obama address, CNN's Kathleen Parker called Bachmann’s speech a “problem” for the GOP.

“Not only is she stealing the show, but she is positioning herself,” Parker said, adding that “it’s making it awkward" for mainstream conservatives.

The practice of the opposition party giving a response to the president’s State of the Union started in 1966, when the GOP wanted to offer a reaction to President Lyndon B. Johnson.

A Massachusetts Democrat, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, will offer the official response on Tuesday night and Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman will provide the Spanish-language version, while Bernie Sanders, the Working Families Party and Maxine Waters will also provide rebuttals. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Moore and other celebrities have even taped a Hollywood rendition. Yet despite the variety of responses, there don't seem to be many pundits who feel it signals any issues with the Democratic Party. 

“When Michelle Bachmann gave a separate rebuttal to Obama in 2011, the Republicans had to ‘dismiss appearances of a divided party’" Media Research Center Managing Editor Tim Graham told Fox News. "Bachmann was speaking to the Tea Party base of the GOP, just as Maxine Waters will speak to the radical left base of the Democrats. Reporters routinely insisted the Tea Party was going to be the ruin of the GOP, but will never discuss whether the hardliners in the Congressional Black Caucus like Waters are serving as perfect foils for Trump.” 

It’s safe to assume liberal commentators who criticized conservatives back in 2011 will have their eyes glued to the array of Democratic responses as they comb through each one for anti-Trump talking points. 

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.