Will Media Incuriosity Kill a Country?

This past week CBS, NBC, Fox News and other outlets put out a sequence of reports relating to mishandling of classified information by then-Vice President Joe Biden. First it was revealed that a stash of classified documents was found by his lawyers at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. Then it was added that another set was found at his home’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. More recently a third stash was discovered elsewhere on the Wilmington property. Then on January 14 it was announced that a fourth finding of five pages of classified documents had been made at the house. 

Now Fox News is reporting that Hunter Biden, of laptop and NSFW upload fame, may have been involved in the arrangements surrounding the set-up of the Penn Center with then Penn President Amy Gutmann. The scandal has rocked Biden’s administration as it enters its third year next week, but all of it could have been avoided if the right questions had been asked in the Fall of 2020. 

There were red flags all over the movement of the Biden papers to the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, including $22 million in anonymous donations originating in a nation with a literal red flag . . .  and five golden colored stars. Few journalists were covering the story of the think tank at the time, but you didn’t have to be an especially experienced sleuth to figure out that something wasn’t right there. 

Pia Singh of the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania, spelled it out in March 2020 when she dug into the claim that Biden (despite being compensated as such) was not truly a teaching professor at Penn which, of course, was true. The National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog, dug into the institution’s donor base and filed a complaint with the Department of Education according to Just The News

Somehow, neither of these developments was enough to trigger the curiosity of our supposedly reputable media, and conservative media at the time was struggling to get traction on other Biden topics such as the Hunter Biden laptop. It wasn’t until March 2022 that the Washington Post was willing to admit the laptop story was true. They were still eight months ahead of CBS News which made the same admission only after the midterm elections. 

Why were they so slow when people with fewer or no resources at all were able to sniff out this story? For regular readers of American Greatness, big media hypocrisy isn’t exactly news, but many ordinary Americans are still surprised to grasp the scale of it. 

During the period before the 2020 election the news media was an industry on a mission: If they had anything to say about it, the wrong man could not win a presidential election ever again. Remember in 2018 when the Boston Globe coordinated with more than 300 daily newspapers across the country in response to President Donald Trump, declaring “we are not the enemy of the people”? They took all of that very personally.

The cause of beating Trump and his movement was termed the “battle for the soul of the nation” by Joe Biden during his famous “red backdrop” speech on September 1, 2022. Big media dutifully and unquestioningly reported on it as such, including Voice of America, a news outlet owned and operated by the federal government, ahead of the actual delivery of the address. Biden had been using the terminology of a “battle for the soul of the nation” in public appearances since the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Winning the “soul of the nation” required steely discipline for those who enlisted in that battle through their news organizations—armed with their laptops, notepads, and recording devices. It was the discipline needed to willfully ignore and dismiss every possible indication that they weren’t actually saving any nation (least of all America), but preserving an established order. They were so dead set on destroying the “wrong” candidate that they were perfectly fine with averting their eyes to the flaws of the other candidate. 

Selective indignation has been the plague of partisan journalism for decades, Republicans included. Most of them harrumphed in indignation whenever anyone questioned whether there was just cause to invade Iraq in 2002-03. To this day, many Trump supporters are not willing to hold the former president accountable for his role in Operation Warp Speed that allowed experimental vaccines to reach the market at the “speed of science” rather than undergoing the full battery of verification and validation tests that typically is required of a pharmaceutical product.

Still most members of the news media are aligned with the Democrats, even if they won’t admit it. It would be too much to ask of them to cover the news fairly and objectively, because they know on which side their bread is buttered. But now, because of that short-sighted, careerist decision to ignore the glaring warnings that Biden was unfit to sit in the Oval Office, they are in a predicament. They cannot make the honest admission they were wrong about Biden, but there’s more involved than simple pride. Often the people reporters are meant to cover in their broadcasts have allies, friends, and even relatives in their newsrooms. 

CBS, for example, has former federal prosecutor Scott Fredericksen working as a commentator on the first Biden classified document revelation. It should surprise no one that he argues there is a difference in intent between this case and the Mar-a-Lago saga. Fredericksen, of course, was a regular donor to both the Biden 2020 campaign committee and the Biden Victory Fund.

NBC News’ Ken Dilanian, who famously declared in 2021 that “even if the Steele dossier is discredited, there’s plenty of evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia,” hedged in a conversation Chuck Todd about the latest Biden allegations by saying “a mistake is more possible.” Suddenly evidence of a crime was no longer the standard but intent was paramount. ABC News’ Maryalice Parks also emphasized that the Biden team “voluntarily disclosed and returned” the documents. This is a classic application of the Comey Principle, created by former FBI Director James Comey on July 5, 2016, wherein a mountain of evidence pointing to a pervasive pattern of illegal behavior can be waved away as a mulligan when cooperation is cited as evidence of a supposed absence of malicious intent.

But the audacity of Peacock network’s egregiously conflicted legal analyst, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, may take the cake. McQuade tweeted about the first set of documents that there are four factors that feed into a prosecution: “Obstruction of justice, storage in a way that risks exposure, willful violation [of the law], and disloyalty to the United States.” She went on to say that none of the factors were present in the Biden case.

But on January 11 her tune had changed when speaking to NBC News anchor Tom Llamas. Here are some statements she made, as a legal analyst:

  • “Legally Tom, no one has an obligation to tell on themselves when they’ve either violated the law or engaged in some sort of misconduct, but politically I think it’s a bad look.” It’s interesting how quickly she pivoted on a classified information question from the legal statute to mentioning the political fallout. 
  • “. . . Republicans would draw a false equivalency between the treatment of Joe Biden and the treatment of Donald Trump.” Llamas had not asked about the Republican response, only the logic of the White House releasing announcements regarding each finding in piecemeal fashion, yet this legal analyst felt compelled to mention this partisan concern.
  • “It seems likely that it was a small number of people that had access to those documents.” How would she know?

All of these statements were made as McQuade continued to hedge by insisting that the investigation into Biden was in its preliminary phase (before the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Hur on January 13), which means that she was playing a guessing game while giving Biden the benefit of the doubt. Contrast this with her opinion piece in September in which McQuade attacked the order by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint a special master to review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. It is arguable that since all of the discoveries of Biden’s classified documents have been made by his lawyers, often months or weeks later, and announced by his special counsel Richard Sauber, that Biden is enjoying the same courtesy of having a special master McQuade would have denied to Trump.

McQuade served as a U.S. attorney during the Obama Administration and in the 2020 election cycle donated more than $15,000 to Democratic candidates, including $7,800 to two different Biden campaign PACs. If this were not enough to indicate her bias, on November 12, 2020, a mere nine days after the presidential election and while much of the vote was still being counted, McQuade volunteered to serve on the Biden transition team’s Department of Justice “review team.” It’s not as if they could not have found a lawyer without those personal conflicts to comment on this story, but it should surprise no one that NBC hired Barbara McQuade. Perhaps the only reason she is featured on NBC is because she is more composed and reserved in her pronouncements than other so-called legal analysts like former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner of MSNBC, who in January 2022 was predicting the imminent indictment of Trump in Georgia for attempting to overturn the 2022 election. 

Finally, what are we not hearing now in the aftermath of four different findings of sensitive documents in unsecured locations concerning this president? Was national security endangered? Has confidence in our democracy been impacted? What about sources and methods, have they been compromised? Those are questions I remember hearing all the time when Trump was in the news, but somehow no one’s asking them anymore.

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