It would seem like an obvious, easy question. Why do some networks continue to book GOP guests who voted to overturn the election and perpetuate Donald Trump’s big lie? And, to add insult to injury, when they do have them on, Republicans aren’t asked to explain themselves.
And in doing so, the talk shows suddenly become complicit in the charade. Watch how Trump and his allies are trying to change the narrative. The ex-president himself has said Capitol rioters were hugging and kissing police. Here’s some newly released video of that love fest.
The blossoming efforts to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her position as Chair of the House Republican Conference tells you all you need to know about the GOP’s efforts to try and pretend the Jan. 6 Insurrection never happened. After a brief period following the attack where a few members found their spines after four years of bending the knee to former President Donald Trump, the Republican Party then went back to a previous script. Now it’s almost as if the takeover of the capitol didn’t happen.
So despite the fact that 8 Senators and 139 Representatives, all Republicans, voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results — the same night as the rioters occupied the Capitol — the push to turn the attack into some kind of urban legend continues.
And the mainstream television news ecosphere is now an accomplice.
Margaret Sullivan wrote a remarkable column for The Washington Post on this discouraging normalization happening on a weekly basis on our television sets. She highlighted how shows like ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s Meet The Press” and even weekday morning shows like “CBS This Morning” are helping efforts to make the Insurrection ‘go away’ by not holding those who perpetuated Trump’s Big Lie accountable for their actions.
CNN’s “State of the Union” remains a notable exception as it has not been booking lawmakers who voted to overturn the election results. The network has also been especially merciless in how it highlights the shameless hypocrisy of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who went from blaming Trump for the Jan. 6 attack shortly afterward to posing for pictures with him at his golf club.
But as Sullivan points out in her column, it’s a small public radio station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that is setting the standard for how all legitimate news outlets should handle election deniers.
WITF reporters now insert language into any story they do about an elected official that highlights his or her role in the “attacks on the truth” that incited the Election Lies and helped fuel the Insurrection. It is a stunningly simple act that makes complete sense. It continues one of the prime objectives of responsible journalism: To hold those in positions of power accountable.
WITF is setting a standard that many other, much larger media outlets are falling woefully short of. Take for instance, Meet The Press. This past Sunday, host Chuck Todd had Ohio Senator Rob Portman on as a guest. That’s the same Rob Portman who tweeted this, four days after the riot at the Capitol.
Portman hasn’t outright said the election was stolen from Trump, but because he hasn’t said it wasn’t stolen, either. He’s also offered no proof that his “blue ribbon panel” is even necessary. Yet there he was, on what once was the gold standard for Sunday morning news shows, criticizing President Joe Biden for not being bipartisan enough.
Todd didn’t bother to ask his guest how he could expect “good faith negotiations” with a president whom many of Portman’s fellow Republicans refuse to publicly acknowledge won the election.
While Bashing Chuck Todd is a Sunday Twitter tradition, he’s far from the only major network host who fails to hold his guest’s feet to the fire. On April 25, George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “This Week” had Florida Senator Rick Scott on as a guest. Scott is not only a notoriously loyal Trump supporter but he also voted to overturn the election results, despite being forced out of the Capitol by the MAGA supporters who stormed the building. But instead of asking him about his role in perpetuating the lies around the election…Stephanopoulos decided to question Scott about a bogus award he gave Trump at Mar-a-Lago.
The normalizing of the Insurrection isn’t just restricted to Sunday mornings. On April 29’s “CBS This Morning,” Scott was interviewed by Anthony Mason and was able to spent lots of time criticizing Biden’s first joint address, but was never asked once about why he was one of the Senators who voted to overturn Biden’s election victory.
Perhaps the growing frustration from viewers for these Republican guests is beginning to take effect at the networks. This past Sunday featured no notable GOP official who supported Trump’s election lie, a sign that perhaps show bookers realize they need to re-assess who they bring on their shows.
But not booking Republicans on these isn’t the answer, either. The best way to approach this is to maintain a standard of accountability. Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse told the Post that network bookers should have a simple, blanket policy for Republicans who backed the Big Lie.
“Don’t book them, as long as they haven’t publicly retracted.”