TV news warns about the new 'extremist' House Speaker

TV news warns about the new 'extremist' House Speaker

TV news warns about the new 'extremist' House Speaker

The good news for Republicans is they finally elected a new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. The bad news for Republicans is the "objective" media exist to create bad news for Republicans.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham

Tim Graham is executive editor of NewsBusters and director of media analysis for the Media Research Center. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, National Review and other publications.

The "Politico Playbook" announced the breaking spin over the breaking news: "Johnson is about to become for Democrats what Nancy Pelosi was for Republicans: a base-motivating, money-raising boogeyman who embodies everything they dislike most about the other party. At least that's what Democrats are hoping."

Politico added Democrats will paint Johnson as "an election denier, an anti-abortion extremist and a slasher of Social Security and Medicare." Surprise, surprise – that's the tone the networks struck in their first evening news reports.

In the first seconds of "NBC Nightly News," anchor Lester Holt announced: "Meet the new speaker, little-known Congressman Mike Johnson, a hardline conservative from Louisiana." Seconds later, Holt called him a "hard-right conservative." Then Garrett Haake underlined he was a "staunch conservative on issues like abortion and government spending."

On CBS, anchor Norah O'Donnell declared, "The staunch conservative wants a federal ban on abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage." Reporter Nikole Killion added, "he managed to unite both the hard-right and establishment flanks of the party."

ABC's Rachel Scott said Johnson is "staunchly anti-abortion rights" and "not in favor of protections for same-sex marriage." He even "voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act" in 2021. Why? There were gun rights issues, and religious liberty issues. But it's too much fun to imply he favors violence against women.

Journalists wanted to press Republicans on why they would support Johnson. On PBS, anchor Geoff Bennett pressed Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa: "Mike Johnson is more genial than Jim Jordan, but he's no less a hardliner. He is on the far right of the spectrum when it comes to issues like reproductive rights, same-sex marriage."

It should be obvious that Democrats hold staunchly opposite positions from the "ultraconservative hardliners," but there are no "ultraliberal hardliners."

When far-left Nancy Pelosi stepped down from the Speaker's job last November, ABC and NBC hailed her as a "hero" and an "icon" whose reign was "legendary." CBS hailed her as an "outsized political force for a generation."

When Democrats then elected Hakeem Jeffries to replace Pelosi as their party leader, PBS (and the others) hailed him as "the first black lawmaker to head a major political party in Congress." That was a two-sentence story, with no drama.

Political observers could say the House Democrats are clearly more disciplined and organized. But it should also be said that these pro-Democrat media outlets create no incentives for publicly rocking the boat. Decisions are kept behind caucus doors, and reporters are ready to hail the results after it's all over.

It's especially rich that these networks would throw "election denier" at Speaker Johnson when they wouldn't lob that insult at Rep. Jeffries, who routinely called Donald Trump an "illegitimate" president and denied his election at least 13 times, by the GOP's counting.

Reporters huffed and puffed when Republicans booed questions about "election deniers," insisting it was a "fair question" to Johnson. But it's not fair when only one party is pressed on denying election results.

These anti-Republican and pro-Democrat tactics never changed. When Speaker John Boehner was pushed out in 2015, a monthlong NewsBusters study found they described Republicans as "conservative" more than 100 times, and as "far-right" or its equivalents in 35 of those uses.

No House Democrat was "far-left." Reporters are left-wing extremists like Pelosi and Jeffries, so they see themselves as the "sensible center."


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