Media’s selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle
When CNN’s Manu Raju asked a perfectly legitimate question to Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) considering new evidence in the upcoming Senate trial of President Trump, her reaction, declining to comment to the congressional correspondent, set off another polar opposite reaction in the political media.
“Should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?” Raju asked McSally as she walked through the halls of Congress.
“Manu, you’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you,” McSally replied.
“You’re not going to comment about this?” Raju followed.
“You’re a liberal hack, buddy,” McSally reiterated as she walked away.
Inevitably, that exchange became a national news story, particularly on CNN, for the next 24 hours. One by one, Raju’s colleagues jumped to his defense.
Most notable was the normally reserved anchor Wolf Blitzer, who comes from another generation of CNN journalists that lived by the motto of simply covering the story instead of making themselves the story. That went out the window late Thursday.
“Instead of answering a fair question, she simply called you a ‘liberal hack.’ It was disgusting, it was awful,” Blitzer said on air while talking to Raju. “She should know better. Certainly, you’re one of the most respected congressional reporters up on Capitol Hill.”
After playing the exchange, which was caught on video, Blitzer asked Raju, “I take it she or her staff, no one has reached out to apologize to you, have they?”
“I have not heard from them at all,” Raju replied.
“If they did the right thing, she would personally call you,” Blitzer said.
Later Thursday night, CNN primetime anchor Chris Cuomo referred to McSally as a “punk” while openly asking how anyone could possibly vote for her in November’s upcoming senatorial election in Arizona.
The National Press Club also weighed in, calling McSally’s assertion about Raju “factually and ethically wrong.”
All of these defenses wouldn’t be as mocked as they have been by conservatives/right-leaning outlets if the folks standing on their respective soap boxes could show something resembling consistency.
Exhibit A: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) lashed out at Raju in February 2019 in the same halls of Congress after the reporter asked the freshman congresswoman about her tweet alleging that President Trump “trafficked in hate.”
“Are you serious?” an incredulous Omar said after Raju quoted the tweet back to her in asking the question. “What is wrong with you?”
Not much outrage from anyone at CNN or the National Press Club on that disrespectful response from Omar.
Then there’s Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who last year called the Daily Caller’s Henry Rodgers “trash” for asking a fair question about the Green New Deal.
“You’re trash. I won’t answer questions to the Daily Caller, period! You’re trash! Don’t keep harassing me or I’ll call Capitol Police!,” Menendez said at the time.
Again, mostly crickets from the soapbox complex.
Most recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pointed a finger at Sinclair’s James Rosen and warned him not to mess with her for asking another perfectly legitimate question, this time about her feelings about President Trump. The question was based on an assertion made by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) earlier that day.
“Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?” Rosen asked during Pelosi’s weekly press briefing at the Capitol.
“I don’t hate anybody. We don’t hate anybody. Not anybody in the world. Don’t accuse me,” Pelosi said while leaving the podium to walk toward Rosen and pointing at him.
“I did not accuse you. I asked you a question. Rep. [Doug] Collins yesterday suggested that the Democrats are doing this simply because you don’t like the guy. I think it is an important point,” Rosen calmly replied.
Pelosi proceeded to walk back to the podium and lecture Rosen.
“This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office,” she said. “And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
The applause from many in the media establishment, woke late-night hosts and social media was deafening, with the hashtag #DontMessWithNancy trending to the top of Twitter on December 5.
You get the point: This is all about the two most common words when it comes to reaction to anything controversial in the Trump era:
For McSally’s part, she knows that traditional media, and particularly outlets like CNN, are as unpopular as any entity with those on the right. So much so, she’s fundraising off of the Raju exchange.
Which, of course, led to fundraising off the fundraising by McSally’s opponent, Mark Kelly.
So you see what this is really about:
– A chance for CNN to make itself the story while portraying one of its own as a victim in using its anchors to amplify its selective outrage, which didn’t exist when Democratic lawmakers attacked reporters for asking standard questions.
– An opportunity for McSally to exploit her supporters’ mistrust and/or outright loathing of CNN.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Because rest assured this will continue to be a regular cycle leading up to the 2020 election.
Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill and co-host of “WOR Tonight with Joe Concha” weeknights on 710-WOR in New York. Follow him on Twitter @JoeConchaTV.
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