As the evidence continues to mount of the Trump administration’s wrongdoing in the impeachment case, the right will also continue to lash out against the ongoing media coverage of that wrongdoing, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent blowup directed at NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly after she raised questions about the Trump-Ukraine scandal.
The incident led President Donald Trump to retweet a suggestion from a Fox News host that NPR be defunded completely. In addition, the State Department has now booted another NPR reporter, Michele Kelemen, from the list of reporters who will fly with Pompeo for his upcoming trip to Ukraine, in an apparent act of retaliation for the outlet’s coverage.
And while the right wing is engaging in fervent demagoguery against them, the public broadcasting outlets are starting to “both sides” the coverage of the impeachment trial.
In another NPR news piece Monday, reporting on the Trump legal team’s arguments to the Senate, the outlet uncritically repeated the administration’s debunked accusations against the Biden family:
Later in the afternoon, Trump attorney Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general, rose to attack former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter's dealings in Ukraine. The younger Biden was hired to sit on the board of a Ukrainian gas company Burisma at the same time his father was the Obama administration's point man in fighting corruption there. In the infamous July 25th phone call, Trump asked Ukraine's president to "do us a favor, though" and investigate the Bidens. The first article of impeachment charges Trump with abusing the power of his office by asking for the investigation in return for releasing nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. Trump denies any such link was made, though Bolton's book appears to undercut that assertion.
Bondi said the younger Biden was paid $83,000 a month to sit on the Burisma board, and played a news clip in which Hunter was asked if would have been hired by the firm if his last name wasn't Biden. "I don't know, I don't know, he responded. Probably not."
PBS NewsHour also ran a piece that repeated staunch Republicans senators’ praise of the Trump legal team, as if it represented a genuine success:
Democrats may disagree, but the White House team’s arguments backed up what Republicans have been saying since the trial began. On Monday, during breaks in the trial, GOP senators called the Trump lawyers’ case persuasive. “The White House has done a brilliant job of shredding the House managers’ case,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters.
Democrats last week argued there was no evidence backing up the allegations of corrupt business dealings by the Bidens in Ukraine. But at least in this phase of trial, Trump’s defense team will have the last word on the Bidens, and they took advantage of it. “All we are saying is, there is a basis to raise this issue, and that is enough,” Bondi said.
After her presentation, Republican senators echoed the sentiment. “The president was entirely justified for asking for an investigation” into the Bidens, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.
To be clear, other examples of coverage from both outlets can be found which will note that accusations of corruption against the Biden family have been debunked. But these same outlets can also be seen bending over backward to give Trump’s defenses more legitimacy than they deserve.
It’s a slippery slope, which they shouldn’t even be starting down at the risk of their own credibility.