How Chuck Todd Distorts Reality

Back in 2013, Chuck Todd said that it wasn’t the media’s job to correct Republican lies—particularly when it came to the issue of Obamacare. Fast forward six years, and the same television news host is playing a completely different tune. He took it upon himself to lecture Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for referring to the migrant detention facilities being run by the Trump administration as “concentration camps.”

Let’s first of all note that Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t lying about the detention facilities, Todd simply didn’t like the language she used to describe them. What this demonstrates is that, according to Todd, it is not the job of the media to call out Republican lies, but it is their job to police the civility of the language used by Democrats.

In the process of this commentary, Todd once again demonstrates that he can’t let go of the “both sides do it” framework. He criticized Representative Jerrold Nadler for failing to call Ocasio-Cortez out on her comments and used that as a springboard to suggest that we are all so ensconced in our liberal vs. conservative bubbles that we can’t talk about right and wrong anymore.

Interestingly enough, Todd’s colleague at NBC just pointed to the perfect example of how both sides don’t do it.

Republicans were completely silent about the fact that Trump not only refused to apologize to the Central Park Five but also validated those who are still claiming that they are guilty. Meanwhile, Biden is being raked over the coals by Democrats for talking about how he was able to work with segregationists while in Congress. Even more importantly, as A.G. Sulzberger pointed out, there was a deathly silence when the president accused the New York Times of treason. It is hard to imagine language that is more incendiary than that.

Long before Trump was elected, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein identified what was happening.

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.

It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

In that piece, they identified the danger of what we just saw from Todd.

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.

It is true that right-wing media outlets like Fox News are dangerous as propaganda arms of the Trump presidency. But mainstream journalists who distort reality by prioritizing balance over truth are also complicit.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.