As I think I’ve made clear in the past, I have no gripe with the establishment media having gone openly partisan. They have every right to be as partisan as they want. My gripe is with the pretense that they can do that and still be considered reliably objective: that people are willing to go along with that pretense.
Pretty much everyone I know who isn’t right of center hates Fox News for its rightward political slant. But very few of them are willing to acknowledge the leftward slant of, well, just about every other major American news outlet: CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and almost all major metro market news dailies.
One advantage the right enjoys over the left is that it is much, much harder to seal yourself into a rightist news bubble than it is to seal yourself into a leftist bubble, in much the same way that it’s harder to avoid rain in Denmark than it is in Dubai. This ensures that those of us on the right are exposed to the ideas of the left much more frequently than those on the left are exposed to ours. (That’s also why the ideas of the right are so poorly understood by the left: they’re not being exposed to our actual ideas, but to the caricatures of our ideas represented by leftist partisans.)
The problem with this kind of polarization—one of the problems—is that there is very little media policing of leftist politicians and policies because “the news” is so overwhelming in the tank for the left that it’s considered bad form to go after their own.
That’s why a leftist U.S. Governor (Northam) or leftist Prime Minister of Canada (Trudeau) can get away with dolling themselves up in blackface. It’s why an actual Klansman was able to serve as a U.S. Senator for fifty years, right up until his death in 2010 (Byrd). It’s why the disgusting behavior of leftist celebrities and financiers is overlooked until it becomes impossible to brush aside.
It’s also why a dogged partisan can doom thousands of citizens to illness and death and be hailed as a hero.
An article in today’s Berlingske serves as a useful case study:
Democrats loved the charming governor. But on Fox News they thought he was hiding something. They were right. Mikkel Danielsen, Berlingske.dk, January 4
Yes, Democrats swooned for New York Governor Cuomo, and they probably considered him “charming.” But part (if not all) of his charm was his vicious partisanship. This is a man who said in 2014 that people who didn’t believe in some of the foundational leftist pieties “have no place in the state of New York.” So it’s fair to say his charm had a very selective appeal.
For a borgerlig paper like Berlingske to use “charming” without scare quotes, and to pretend that the impact of Cuomo’s horrendous policy was some kind of secret, is just another example of news polarization.
Andrew Cuomo’s policy of forcing COVID-19 positive patients back into nursing homes to free up space in hospitals was public knowledge. The full extent of its consequences is the only new information to have entered the public sphere.
You can read the governor’s March 25th order for yourself. There was almost immediate criticism of the order both locally and nationally; Governor Cuomo dismissed it as partisan politics and the establishment media took him at his word. Politifact even bent over backwards to rate an August 2020 criticism of the governor by an HHS assistant secretary “mostly false”:
The policy likely had an effect, but epidemiologists identified additional factors that fed the problem. What’s more, the policy did not “force” nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients. Nursing homes interpreted it this way.
That’s from Politifact: here’s an excerpt from the NY Department of Health Advisory (NH stands for Nursing Home):
No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.
The underlining is not mine, by the way: it’s in the original advisory and it’s the only underlined sentence in the entire document.
Politifact says nursing homes weren’t forced to take in positive patients: they just interpreted the statement that way. Read the statement and ask yourself how you would have interpreted it.
I don’t want to dwell on this too long: my point is only that the policy was public knowledge and it was being criticized from the outset… from the right. As Danielsen’s Berlingske article gets around to noting eventually, Cuomo was swatting these criticisms away all year as pure politics. He was doing such a great job as governor, you see, and was so beloved by Democrats for the charm that simply oozed out of him like pus from an infected wound, that of course the crazy right-wing attack machine was going to come after him. And the left bought it.
Danielsen’s article in its totality is less a condemnation of Cuomo (although it certainly is that) than it is a lesson in the very real consequences of a totally polarized news media.
Compare and contrast the treatment given to Cuomo with that given to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by the establishment media, then compare the metrics for the two states. New York and Florida are about the same size geographically and have roughly similar populations. Florida has outperformed New York on virtually every pandemic metric from the very start. (I follow those states closely: New York was my last home before moving to Denmark, and my parents live in Florida.) But it was Governor Cuomo that got hailed as America’s Governor Hero, because he’s a Democrat and DeSantis is a Republican.
Pigs will be flying through the snowy skies of a frozen Hell before the establishment American media see a Republican as anything but the Enemy of All Mankind. (Unless it’s a Republican who can be weaponized against other Republicans: that’s how Mitt Romney went from literally Hitler to the Adult in the Room.)
But let’s get back to Florida. As Karol Markowicz noted in the New York Post on January 11:
Florida’s policies bore good fruit. On Jan. 9, New York reported 17,839 new cases. Florida, with about 2 million more people than New York, had 15,445. An open state like Florida having fewer COVID cases than a mostly closed state like New York proves protracted lockdowns are a failure.
Even if Florida is somehow hiding numbers, bodies are harder to stash. Florida has had 22,000 COVID-19 deaths to New York’s 38,000. The virus hit the two states at the same time.
Nor can weather account for the difference. Yes, Floridians are often outdoors thanks to the Sunshine State’s balmy climes. But that doesn’t explain why the virus is raging out of control in tightly locked-down California.
Keeping all of the above in mind, let’s get back to Danielsen’s article.
“There was a time,” he begins, “not very long ago, when Andrew Cuomo was the hottest name in American politics.”
There was a time, Danielsen means, when Andrew Cuomo was the hot new thing on the American left.
“In the spring (of 2020), Democrats dreamed of President Cuomo—or at least just Vice President Cuomo.”
It’s true, they did. Let’s never let them forget it.
The New York governor’s daily corona press conferences were a megahit. Viewers across the USA lapped them up. For Cuomo was everything that Donald Trump wasn’t—empathetic, vigorous, fact-based. But then speculations began that something wasn’t quite all that it should be.
And now suddenly the story about the Democrat who had become America’s leading moral voice on the coronavirus has begun to crack.
Or, as H.C. Andersen might have written, “And suddenly the story of the naked emperor’s glorious outfit began to crack.”
Except in this case it wasn’t a single innocent child pointing out that the emperor was naked: it was the establishment media finally realizing they could no longer pretend not to know how disastrous Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic had been, and how disgustingly narcissistic.
Danielsen is missing an important adverb in that first paragraph, by the way: what I’m sure he meant to write was “For Cuomo was apparently everything that Donald Trump wasn’t.”
In fact, Cuomo was just the Democrat version of Trump: a chest-thumping, boastful narcissist. But if you’re a Democrat and you pay homage to all the progressive pieties, you can do no wrong.
Not until one of your own appointees throws you under the bus, anyway.
Here’s how Danielsen tells that tale:
Letitia James, New York’s Democratic Attorney General, was appointed by Andrew Cuomo. She was tasked with investigating what had actually happened at the state’s nursing homes. And last week she was able to reveal the truth:
The number of dead nursing home residents is much, much higher than her boss ever mentioned.
More than 3800 corona-related deaths among nursing home residents were never counted in the statistics, because they died at hospitals or in ambulances rather than in nursing homes. This brought the number of nursing home deaths to almost 13,000, according to the Associated Press.
The report from the state’s AG doesn’t increase New York’s total number of corona deaths—more than 42,000. The nursing home deaths were counted in the overall stats, but not in the correct stat for nursing homes.
“And so what?” Andrew Cuomo asked angrily, as he called a press conference to defend himself.
“Dead at a hospital. Dead at a nursing home. They died. People die.”
Empathetic! Vigorous! Fact-based!
Before recounting the above (in a section entitled “The Truth About Andrew Cuomo”) Danielsen spends more time describing the media’s love affair with the governor, and hinting a little at the man’s love affair with himself. He even mentions and includes a link to the chummy video segment Cuomo did with his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, that I’ve been grousing about on these electronic pages for months. (In one post I actually asked rhetorically why nobody seemed to find that segment weird; I’m glad they do in retrospect, but it’s a shame their corrective lenses weren’t in place back when it mattered.)
He also spends some time talking about Janice Dean, the Fox News weather presenter who has been unrelenting about Cuomo’s disastrous nursing home policy from the very beginning, after both her in-laws died in nursing homes:
On Fox News, Janice Dean became the standard bearer for the claim that Cuomo’s decision had triggered contagion bombs and mass deaths at New York’s nursing homes and tried to hide the actual death toll. The popular evening hosts chimed in, and Tucker Carlson dubbed it the “nursing home disaster”.
That’s all true. Also true, but not stated explicitly: the establishment media completely ignored the story, except (as usual in such cases) to circle the wagons around their man by means of “Republicans pounce” type stories and contorted “fact checks.”
Janice Dean wrote her own account last Friday, shortly after the revelations came out.
Danielsen wraps up by noting other troubling signs that Cuomo has fallen from grace: for example, the resignations of nine high-level health department officials over the past few months (“the causes sound somewhat alike: Andrew Cuomo doesn’t listen. He just decides for himself”). And the criticism he’s received from his former cheering squads at CNN and the New York Times. Danielsen even notes that Jake Tapper “furrowed his brow” in the course of criticizing one of the governor’s more flippant recent remarks.
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a furrowed Tapper brow!
Danielsen’s conclusion is terse: “The left used to be hopelessly in love with Andrew Cuomo. That love now appears to be dead.”
And as with most American Democrats, this is probably the first critical word Berlingske’s readers have encountered with respect to Andrew Cuomo’s mishandling of the crisis. For American Democrats, that’s a consequence of their media bubble. For Berlingske readers, it’s thanks to that “borgerlig” paper’s iron-clad policy of reporting all the American news that’s fit for the New York Times.
Had Cuomo not already lost favor with CNN and the Times, I doubt Berlingske would have published this piece. I’d even go so far as to suggest that had CNN and the Times not mentioned the story, Danielsen and his editors wouldn’t even be aware of it.
But the story is true, and has been true for months. It’s been out there, available to any journalist with the courage to pursue an important story even if it might reflect badly on a Democrat. Andrew Cuomo is a 63 year old man and he’s been New York’s governor for a decade. His father Mario was also Governor of New York and was also frequently urged to run for president. Does anyone think that the Andrew Cuomo they’re seeing now is some new edition? Anyone think the man was ever anything but the narcissistic braggart he’s so plainly been revealed to be, now that the media have decided the evidence against him is at last too much to be ignored?
The role of the press in holding elected officials and policymakers to account has never been spotless, but their elevation of Andrew Cuomo to something like sainthood in 2020 (the man was awarded an Emmy, for god’s sake) and their abrupt about-face since last Friday perfectly illustrate the hazards of a one-sided partisan press—and a public content to accept the reporting of a one-sided partisan press as “the news.”
I’m not fool enough to interpret Danielsen’s article as a sign that Berlingske’s going to start holding American Democrats to the same standards to which they hold Republicans—at one point Danielsen says that Trump “suggested injecting bleach into the blood of the sick,” which is the blood libel of the Trump-deranged—but I am encouraged to see that there actually are things bad enough to get even the sycophantic establishment media to criticize Democrats.
Benjamin Disraeli once responded to a heckler screaming that he couldn’t hear him: “Truth travels slowly, but it will reach even you in time.“
Truth does indeed travel slowly, but we should all be heartened that it can reach even CNN, the New York Times, and Berlingske Tidende eventually.