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Factchecking NPR’s Attempted Takedown of Bernie Sanders

1 51 576
19.02.2020

The Iowa caucuses officially began the Democratic primary, and even in this ongoing, extended battle for the White House, Iowa remains an important marker for candidates and the media. A close look at a piece by two of NPR’s leading political reporters, which aired just before the caucuses, provides a view of how journalists speak with authority on issues they seem to know very little about. The conversation between Mary Louise Kelly and her partner Mara Liasson, headlined “Where Iowa Falls in the Big Picture of the 2020 Election” (All Things Considered, 2/3/20), began with Kelly introducing the importance of Iowa for Democrats, but, she observed, it’s been on the “backburner,” after days of constant impeachment coverage.

Liasson agreed, then spent most of her introductory remarks on Trump, presenting him as legitimate as any past president:

Tomorrow night President Trump appears in the well of the House before he speaks to both houses of Congress for the big curtain-raiser for him, the State of the Union address. It’s the biggest audience he’ll have all year. It’s—every president gets to kind of kick off his re-election campaign with the State of the Union address, and we can expect to hear a campaign message from him tomorrow.

No mention was made that Trump had flouted the Constitution by refusing to cooperate with an impeachment hearing, or that Republican senators would fail to uphold the Constitution by voting to dismiss impeachment charges after a sham trial with no witnesses. Liasson’s critical remarks were reserved for the Democratic Party, both voters and candidates.

“I see a very unsettled race,” Liasson told Kelly, and continued, “Democrats are paralyzed by indecision.” One wonders which race she is looking at, as both state and national polls show that Democratic voters are anything but “paralyzed,” and for months have been anticipating the primary with “an incredible degree of excitement” (Vox, 2/3/20). One national Quinnipiac University poll (1/28/20) found a whopping 85% of Democratic voters were either “extremely” or “very” motivated to vote in the primary contests, characterizing their enthusiasm as “sky high.”

Liasson claimed that the main issue for the Democratic Party is “electability”—a fraught term often used to signal ideological orthodoxy rather than empirical chances of winning elections (FAIR.org, 10/25/19). She asserted that Democrats are “confused,” and “for good reason,” because Trump remains an “existential threat,” and not only are none of the candidates “a sure thing,” none even “seem likely to defeat” Trump.

Such handwringing is, again, not founded in facts or data. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published the day before this broadcast—one day ahead of the Iowa caucuses—found that Trump was trailing........

© Common Dreams