The mainstream media wants desperately to preserve California’s liberal establishment from the growing threats it faces. Retaining a state government designed primarily to serve lefty causes and public employee unions means stopping the gubernatorial campaign of Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman--especially her appeal to Hispanics.
Whitman committed the sin of pulling even in the polls with career politician and establishment icon Jerry Brown. Brown has been unable to effectively defend the liberal policies that have led the state to sky-high unemployment of 12.4%, underemployment over 20% and a perpetual budget crisis, the establishment and its media helpers are left with the fallback of a smear campaign.
In fact, a new USC UVote poll on Wednesday, October 6, “Republican candidate Whitman leads Democratic candidate Brown by 11 points among registered voters who had not yet reached a decision during the primary election season.”
And so it is with unbridled passion that mainstream news outlets have seized on hazy allegations of wrongdoing by Whitman in retaining a household employee.
The issue is Whitman’s former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz. Whitman hired Diaz through an employment agency in 2000. Unbeknownst to Whitman, Diaz had provided the agency with false documents and personal information to appear eligible to work in the United States.
Whitman retained Diaz until 2009, paying her nearly three times the minimum wage and withholding and paying all required taxes. When Diaz informed Whitman that she had lied on her application, Whitman ended her employment.
Most Californians who examine the facts will conclude that Whitman acted reasonably and prudently. But the left sees this as an opportunity to use emotion and misinformation to distract voters from the state’s liberal legacy. – Far better to talk about Ms. Diaz than depression-level unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, Sacramento’s war on business and the state’s half-trillion dollar unfunded liabilities.
Riding to the establishment’s rescue is the mainstream media. For example, as of October “Good Morning America,” which airs on ABC, had done no fewer than four segments on the Diaz story.
According to the Media Research Center, on a single day, "GMA" gave the story nine minutes of airtime. The network dubbed this the “story that won’t go away” and then fulfilled its own prophecy with lengthy coverage in multiple programs, even as indications surfaced that Diaz was being manipulated by a Democratic political operative.
The leftwing New York Times has already run no fewer than 4 articles featuring the story. Upon Whitman’s recounting of the facts regarding Diaz, The Times breathlessly reported “the Whitman campaign had lashed out at her claims.” Another story beat the Democrats to their own talking points calling the episode “a distracting embarrassment that has raised questions about Ms. Whitman’s credibility.”
Does the media afford the same scrutiny to Whitman’s opponent, and other Democrats in key political races this season? Don’t be silly. The mainstream media has ignored a report that Jerry Brown likely violated federal law when he traveled to Cuba in 2000--and used as a travel agent a former CIA officer turned Cuban spy.
The media has also largely ignored Brown’s earlier terms as governor from 1975-1983, during which unemployment soared and Brown’s incompetence and outlandish ideas afforded him the nickname “Governor Moonbeam.”
Other races, like those for the U.S. Senate in states like Delaware, Nevada and Kentucky, have also seen the mainstream media hone in on controversy surrounding Republican candidates while ignoring controversial statements and conduct by Democratic opponents.
Were the mainstream media doing its job in the California race, it would report the full story behind the smear against Whitman. And they would include the possible political motivations of Ms. Diaz’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, a Democratic activist and past donor to Brown.
The media might also note other indications that this this story and the timing of it is political mischief and not news. In any given election, Democrats lament that Republicans will launch an “October surprise” that will derail their candidate.
In fact, Democrats themselves are masters of the trick, by which a short-term emotional reaction can change the dynamics of a close race just long enough for the Democrat to win. The revelation of George W. Bush’s 1976 DUI on the weekend before the 2000 presidential election helped turn a small lead in the polls into a small deficit on Election Day.
In California itself, conservative Bruce Herschensohn was essentially tied with liberal Barbara Boxer heading into a 1992 election for the U.S. Senate. A Democratic official began ranting at a Herschensohn rally that the candidate frequented strip joints. The misleading allegation kept Herschensohn off message in the campaign’s final days and led to a narrow loss against Boxer.
As with the contemporary smear against Whitman, the claim against Herschensohn was made by a Democratic operative not on the campaign’s payroll, but whose claim that he was acting independently was dubious. -- Real journalists should wonder if history (or perfidy) is repeating itself.
Ultimately though, the mainstream media is not interested in journalism. Its mission is to preserve the liberal status quo. There is a great fear that Ms. Whitman’s pro-business plans to end economic malaise in California will appeal not only to traditional Republican voters but Hispanics and others as well, propelling her to the statehouse. And that doesn’t fly in mainstream newsrooms any more than in union headquarters.
Christian Whiton is a former Bush administration adviser. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.
Christian Whiton is the president of the Hamilton Foundation. He was a State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration and a policy advisor on the Giuliani and Gingrich presidential campaigns. He is author of "Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War" (Potomac Books 2013).