CNN’s Brian Stelter invited Los Angeles Times columnist Jackie Calmes on his weekly media program on Sunday to declare that journalists need to stop covering the country’s two political parties equally because the modern Republicans don’t “really care if government works well.”
“I want to dive right into your argument about what both-siderism is and why it’s failing the public,” Stelter said of Calmes, whose column on the subject won praise from liberal journalists. “Is it that we’re treating Democrats and Republicans equally and ignoring GOP radicalism, is that the heart of the problem?”
Calmes said that was “in a sense” correct.
“There’s no question that journalists are recognizing the radicalization of the Republican Party,” Calmes said. “I think what’s changed a little bit is that, since Trump left office there is more of a sense that maybe we’re back to normal.”
Calmes then declared “this is not a new problem or a new dynamic” but insisted that she has personally been fair throughout her career.
“I think I’m a very fair reporter and give both sides of the story, but what started to happen back in the mid-’90s with the takeover of the House by House Republicans – and in particular Newt Gingrich – was a new, nasty,” she said. “I mean, his byword was ‘be nasty’ and norm-busting and obstructionist sort of governance. Well, you couldn’t really call it governance that sort of was a precursor for Trump.”
A former New York Times reporter, Calmes said the basic understanding of “both-siderism” has evolved over the last 25 years.
“If you say, ‘Well, you’re reported something that’s somewhat critical of Republicans,’ then you sort of have to say, ‘Well both sides do it, Democrats are guilty as well,’” she said. “And for years, that was sort of simplistically, I was able to do that and everyone else was able to do that. But by increasingly from 1995 on, no, it was asymmetric, as the political scientists call it, and it was more descriptive of Republicans than Democrats.”
Stelter then mentioned Calmes’ new book, “Dissent,” and said it’s about the “descent of the GOP” before pondering if modern both-siderism would cause Republican readers to just dismiss mainstream news coverage. Calmes said “of course” journalists need to be fair and balanced before suggesting the GOP needs to be covered more harshly.
“I just think an objective and fact-based treatment of the news often means you can’t report something that Republicans are doing without, and suggest that this is indicative of a broad or more general problem in our politics, without being clearer somehow that it is, no, this is peculiar to Republicans, this is the nature of the Republican Party,” Calmes said.
“I think it’s rooted in a dynamic in which the Republican Party, which at the beginning of my career proudly was a small government party, styled itself that way, is now an anti-government party,” Calmes added. “Which means it doesn’t really care if government works well.”
NewsBusters, a conservative media watchdog group, scolded the segment in a recap headlined, “CNN Calls for Press to Ditch Objectivity, Portray GOP as Threat to the Country,” which took particular exception to Calmes’ claim that the Republican Party doesn’t care if the government works well.
“That was a lie because much of the GOP still wanted the government to work well within the limited enumerated powers as written in the Constitution. And that’s not to mention the ongoing debate within the party where some wanted a bigger government but for what they thought was important,” NewsBusters analyst Nicholas Fondacaro observed. “Calmes concluded by admitting that this all stemmed from her fear of former President Trump, and Stelter agreed it was an important factor.”
The left-wing Stelter, who has long been accused to abandoning fairness to attack conservative media while often giving liberal organizations as pass, has struggled to remain relevant in the Joe Biden era. His program has averaged fewer than one million viewers for seven straight months and his Oct. 17 episode was the lowest-rated “Reliable Sources” of the year among the key news demographic of adults age 25-54.
Fox News Digital reported earlier this year on the growing trend of journalists throwing away the appearance of objectivity to the applause of fellow liberal media figures. NBC News anchor Lester Holt was also applauded by liberal media figures when he said the notion of fairness was “overrated.”