Media Buzz

Clinton raising money on media 'bias,' a new rallying cry on the left

'MediaBuzz' host Howard Kurtz weighs in on how both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are using media criticism to boost their campaigns


Donald Trump has spent a good part of his campaign ripping the “dishonest” media as treating him unfairly.

In fact, he was at it again the other day, tweeting: “@CNN is unwatchable. Their news on me is fiction. They are a disgrace to the broadcasting industry and an arm of the Clinton campaign.” He also took a swipe at the CNN president he worked with while doing “The Apprentice”: “Jeff Zucker failed @NBC and he is now failing @CNN.”

But now Hillary Clinton’s campaign is stepping up its complaints about media bias.

It’s not that she’s had a cozy relationship with the press, given the fact that she went nine months without a news conference. But Clinton has started using the media to raise money. Perhaps that’s for purely tactical reasons, but it also leaves the press corps—I know, don’t shed any tears for us—in the position of being hammered by both presidential campaigns.

The Clinton camp’s fundraising appeal comes in the wake of that commander-in-chief forum moderated by Matt Lauer. And it quotes a piece by liberal Jonathan Chait in New York magazine about Lauer’s “pathetic” interview, which ends with a denunciation of Trump as “an ignorant, bigoted, pathologically dishonest authoritarian."

Here’s the Clinton money pitch: “Most voters aren't like us. Most people are picking up on politics when it finds them on Facebook, on the radio in the car, or when they flip through a magazine in line at the grocery store.

“Their information is filtered through the press. And right now, a lot of journalists are failing to hold Trump accountable and grading him on a curve, while forcing Hillary to meet an entirely different standard.”

So if you send money now, the Hillary camp can use it to “hold Trump’s feet to the fire.”

A similar line of argument is being offered by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who says he knew his piece would tick off journalists. He writes of Trump:

“It’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream…

“Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.”

Then there is the Washington Post editorial headlined “The Hillary Clinton Email Story is Out of Control.” The paper argues that “Ms. Clinton’s emails have endured much more scrutiny than an ordinary person’s would have.” Perhaps, but she is, after all, running for president.

Here’s a harsh verdict from Glenn Greenwald, the liberal journalist who published the NSA leaks and has repeatedly denounced Trump: 

“Aggressive investigative journalism against Trump is not enough for Democratic partisans whose voice is dominant in U.S. media discourse. They also want a cessation of any news coverage that reflects negatively on Hillary Clinton. Most, of course, won’t say this explicitly (though some do), but — as the wildly adored Krugman column…reflects — they will just reflexively dismiss any such coverage as illegitimate and invalid…

“It would be journalistic malpractice of the highest order if the billions of dollars received by the Clintons — both personally and though their various entities — were not rigorously scrutinized and exposed in detail by reporters,” Greenwald said. “That’s exactly what they ought to be doing. The fact that quid pro quos cannot be definitively proven does not remotely negate the urgency of this journalism.”

My take: There are instances of media bias against Hillary Clinton, even though Trump gets unfairly pounded on a far more regular basis. At the same time, her utter lack of transparency — disputing conspiracy theories about some grave illness while failing to disclose her diagnosis of pneumonia — continues to hurt her. 

But for liberal journalists to complain about excessive coverage of the email and foundation controversies sounds more like cheerleading for the Democratic nominee than grave concern for journalistic excess. It’s usually good politics for a candidate to bash the press, but that doesn’t mean the digging into Clinton’s tangled record isn’t legitimate. 

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.