Michael Barone

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such dishonest and biased coverage of any event.” That was Brit Hume, who has been covering events for more than 50 years for Fox News, ABC News and investigative reporter Jack Anderson.

The event, as you may have guessed, was President Donald Trump’s Independence (without the scare-quotes) Day speech at Mount Rushmore.

The speech was, according to The New York Times, a “dark and divisive speech” designed to deliver a “divisive culture war message.” The Washington Post called it a “dystopian speech” and a “push to amplify racism.”

Absent from their stories were quotations supporting racism. Nor did Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth supply any quotations to support her claim that Trump “spent all his time talking about dead traitors.” Trump mentioned no Confederates but did quote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The great bulk of Trump’s speech was a celebration of American history, American principles, American leaders. He spoke extensively of the four presidents whose visages were sculpted on the mountain above him, and paid tribute more succinctly to others.

He said: “We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass. We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody. We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton — Gen. George Patton — the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali.”

Dark and divisive? Dystopian? Amplifying racism?

What really seems to have raised the press’s hackles was Trump’s dissent from their reverent attitudes toward Black Lives Matter and apparent indifference to those tearing down statues of Lincoln, Douglass, Grant, abolitionists and women’s rights advocates.

“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” Trump said, accurately.

That’s not the message most in the media want voters receiving and processing in the months running up to November. Television viewers have been assured that Black Lives Matter protests are “mostly peaceful,” even while fires are blazing fiercely within camera view. Newspaper readers have been assured that those seizing streets and ousting police are promoting, in the Seattle mayor’s words, a “summer of love,” even as their camp becomes the scene of multiple homicides.

Opinion writers are avoiding mention of the fact that homicides and murders in New York, Chicago and numerous other cities have suddenly risen far above the numbers for 2019 and previous years. Most of the dead are black, but apparently, those black lives don’t really matter.

Media sensibilities may have also been injured when Trump spoke of a “far-left fascism,” one of whose “political weapons is ‘Cancel Culture’ — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.”

This may cut uncomfortably close to home, coming just a few weeks after the defenestration of The New York Times editorial page editor for running an article urging deployment of federal troops, the same tactic that ended rioting and bloodshed in Los Angeles in 1992 and Detroit in 1967.

Underlining Trump’s point, Harper’s Magazine printed an open letter affirming (after some anti-Trump throat clearing) free expression signed by more than 150 writers of varying views — only to have some signers withdraw their signature. “I am so sorry,” tweeted one, while another said free expression “directly endangers the lives of trans people,” and a non-signer tattled to her boss that a colleague signed.

For these media denizens, verbal disagreement is violence, while violent rioting is “mostly peaceful” verbal disagreement. They say, or feel compelled by newsroom pressure to say, that Trump is divisive because he’s accusing them, accurately, of being divisive.

During the Charlottesville controversy around the statue of Robert E. Lee, Trump was ridiculed for predicting that statue protestors would target Washington and Jefferson. Well, The New York Times has run opinion articles coming after Washington and Jefferson.

Lest you think Trump is exaggerating about the “cancel culture,” consider that Thomas Chatterton Williams, one of the signatories of the Harper’s letter, tweeted about “the climate of fear that led many people you know and admire to tell us in confidence that they agreed but were afraid to sign.”

Or, as National Review editor Rich Lowry writes, “I suspect that the very journalists who scoff at Trump’s description of the culture war all know that if they or their colleagues say something disparaging or even skeptical about Black Lives Matter, their jobs would instantly be at risk.”

Hence the dishonest and biased press coverage of Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech. Expect more in the months to come.