Apparently the mainstream media doesn’t have a problem being seen as the “opposition party” to President Donald Trump, to use the phrase of Trump adviser Stephen Bannon.
On Tuesday, the White House Correspondents’ Association announced that the comedian to be featured at the group’s fundraising dinner—the biggest annual event for D.C. political journalists—is Hasan Minhaj.
Minhaj, to put it mildly, is not a fan of Trump.
But don’t take my word on “The Daily Show” correspondent’s political beliefs. Here’s a sampling of statements he’s made about Trump and politics:
- “Donald Trump is an extremist leader who came out of nowhere. He’s self-financed, recruits through social media, attracts his followers with a radical ideology to take over the world, and is actively trying to promote a war between Islam and the West. … Donald Trump is white ISIS. WISIS.” (on “The Daily Show”)
- “Where are all the moderate white conservatives? I mean, come on! They’ve got a responsibility to stand up and speak out against WISIS. … I know there’s just a lot of nuance to the situation, and every conservative isn’t the same, I know. But it’s just easier on my brain to be irrationally afraid of an entire group of people. So until we can figure out what’s going on here … we should not allow any conservatives into the White House.” (on “The Daily Show”)
- “What we saw in [the nightclub massacre in] Orlando was one of the ugliest cocktails of the problems we still see here in America; a cocktail of homophobia, xenophobia, lack of access to mental health care, and sheer lack of political will. … Ultimately, it comes down to money and influence. And right now, since 1998, the NRA has [given] $3.7 million to Congress. … And is this what you want your legacy to be? That you were a ‘could’ve done something’ Congress but you didn’t because of outside lobbying; that you were complicit in the deaths of thousands of Americans?” (at the 2016 Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner)
- “The New York Times, The Washington Post, they don’t call [Trump] a racist. They say his comments are ‘racially tinged.’ No, I’m racially tinged. That dude is racist. Straight up. The Huffington Post … has a disclaimer on their website calling him a racist. BuzzFeed refuses to take money from the GOP or Donald Trump. … They have more journalistic integrity than The New York Times.” (at the 2016 Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner)
- “For the longest time, our show and so many other political-satire shows did everything we could to show the American people, you can’t vote for this guy. I called him ‘white ISIS’ and it didn’t work!” (remarks to GQ)
It is, as the cliché goes, a free country—and Minhaj is free to say whatever he wants. (And while Trump’s supporters have said, fairly, that Trump’s rhetoric is not necessarily identical with what he will do, it would certainly have been better if Trump had spoken more carefully regarding Muslims during the course of the campaign.)
(Minhaj’s remarks about Trump and ISIS)
But it is telling that the media chose such an ardent critic as the entertainer at the first White House Correspondents’ Association dinner of Trump’s presidency. After all, the mainstream media claims objectivity—that it investigates Trump and his administration’s actions because it wishes to reveal the truth, regardless of who’s in office.
Yet it’s hard to believe that—even aside from all the data showing the lack of conservatives in mainstream media—when political journalists choose to have their most important event feature someone who has shown himself to be an ideologue.
On Monday, the Pulitzer Prizes chose to honor former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan “for rising to the moment with beautifully rendered columns that connected readers to the shared virtues of Americans during one of the nation’s most divisive political campaigns.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot, the editor of the newspaper’s editorial pages, noted that Noonan “didn’t shrink from addressing Trump’s many flaws as a candidate, but she always showed great respect for the intelligence of voters and explained the currents of American life and politics that catapulted Trump to the White House.”
Minhaj has a different attitude. Take his meandering quote to GQ in an article published in January:
I think there is some truth to what they’re saying, that there was a lot of finger-wagging on our part. And there was a lot of us-versus-them mentality. The thing that I want to maintain … is knowing that I want to humanize and hear what you have to say. ‘You voted for this person, he’s in office. That’s fine. But I firmly believe this guy doesn’t care about your economic or social well-being. He cares about himself and the title that he has. We shouldn’t be the collateral damage to this narcissist’s dream for power.’
The thing that I want to try to do is remove to the team side of it. Are you Democrat or Republican? Are you with her or are you with him? Remove that from the story and go, ‘You know people in North Carolina are suffering, right? You know the HB2 thing is really bad. You know that, right?’ Focusing on the actual American people. So hopefully we can keep the argument on Team America …
Aside from the word-salad quality of this response … what?
Where is the desire on Minhaj’s part to understand why people would think Trump was better for their economic well-being, even though he doesn’t support the big government solutions Minhaj presumably backs? Where is the effort to get how some men and women may think it’s fine—and even good—for North Carolina to restrict multi-stall bathrooms to one gender, based on a person’s gender at birth or birth certificate?
In the past two days, journalism has lifted up two quite different people—one who works to understand, even if she doesn’t agree, and one who simply mocks.
Depending on which path more journalists ultimately embrace, the future of journalism could look very different.