Coverage of presidential inauguration week underperformed already-low expectations, with the usual measured accolades and sober analysis for the incoming president mostly sidelined for fawning praise and outright activism.
The overall theme centered on the premise that President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles MORE is in essence the second coming of George Washington, who, according to popular lore, vowed never to tell a lie. Anchors and pundits returned to this theme again and again with Biden, who famously dropped out of his first presidential run due to a plagiarism scandal.
Biden also claimed multiple times – including once during last year’s presidential campaign – to have been arrested or jailed when he attempted to see Nelson Mandela in South Africa at the height of Apartheid. After being fact-checked, Biden "clarified" his remarks instead of apologizing, saying he was merely "stopped." The 78-year-old also told a Black audience in 2012 that then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Democrats aim for maximum pressure on GOP over debt ceiling MORE wanted to "put y'all back in chains," without any evidence, as many in the media chuckled over the outrageous comment.
Space limitations make it impossible to share all the examples witnessed this week, so here are the top five examples of the media's slobbering sycophancy:
1a) CNN's political director David Chalian said lights at the Lincoln Memorial are "almost extensions of Joe Biden’s arms embracing America."
“It was a moment where the new president came to town, and sort of convened the country in this moment of remembrance, outstretching his arms," he added. Aaron Sorkin couldn't have written it any better for an episode of "The West Wing."
Chalian is the same journalist who was once caught on a hot mic joking that Republicans were "happy to have a party with black people drowning" as a hurricane bore down on the 2012 Republican National Convention in Florida. He was subsequently fired by Yahoo News, only to be hired by CNN months later.
1b) A close tie in the “unintentional comedy category” goes to CNN's head of strategic communications, who argued that an inauguration night fireworks display over the National Mall starring singer Katy Perry would "shake our foes."
This team truly understands optics. These images will inspire our friends and shake our foes. pic.twitter.com/8i6qjUiJC5— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) January 21, 2021
So, in other words, China, Russia, Iran and ISIS are now shaking in their boots over a fireworks display?
2) Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty declared that we should get ready "for reality-grounded White House press briefings" now that the Biden administration has moved into the James S. Brady Briefing Room. The sentiment was echoed by the Post's fact-checker.
As with Biden, the assumption among many in the media seems to be that White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE would never, ever be involved in any dishonest act and, therefore, should always be given the benefit of the doubt. But past history in another role should invite some scrutiny and skepticism of Psaki. For example, while she was working as State Department spokesperson for the Obama administration from 2013 to 2015, an internal investigation revealed that part of a video of a State Department press briefing discussing secret talks between the U.S. and Iran was intentionally deleted before it was published online.
Per a June 2016 CNN report: "State Department doctored video to hide Iran deal."
The report reads: "After it was revealed in December 2013 that secret talks between the U.S. and Iran actually had taken place, then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted the administration lied in order to protect the secret negotiations."
Tumulty, whose son worked for the Biden campaign, didn't bother to mention this relevant factoid in her glowing profile of Psaki.
3) Associated Press White House correspondent Zeke Miller was granted the first question by Psaki in her debut as press secretary on Wednesday night, and he served up one of the easiest pitches a spokesperson could receive: "When you are up there, do you see yourself in your primary [role] as promoting the interests of the President or are you there to provide us the unvarnished truth so we can share that with the American people?"
Now how else is Psaki going to answer that question? "No, I'm not going to tell the unvarnished truth. I'm here to spin any and every narrative to put my boss in the best possible light. Deal with it"? Of course not. Instead, Psaki – who also worked as the Obama White House's communications director from 2015 to 2017 – answered the question while periodically glancing down at what appeared to be prepared notes in anticipation of such a question.
"If the president were standing with me here today, he would say he works for Americans. I work for him, so I also work for the American people,” she said. “So, his objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to government, to share the truth even when it is hard to hear, and that is something I hope to deliver on as well.”
In 2017, Miller, working at the time for Time magazine, erroneously reported on Trump's first day in office that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. That tweet quickly overwhelmed social media in portraying Trump as such a horrible racist that he apparently couldn't stand to have a likeness of the American civil rights icon in the Oval.
To his credit, Miller corrected the mistake. But the tone of the press corps toward Trump became obvious.
Correction: The MLK bust is still in the Oval Office. It was obscured by an agent and door.— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) January 21, 2017
4) CNN's "scoop" alleging that the Trump administration hadn't left a vaccine plan in place for the Biden team went horribly awry earlier this week. It was a stunning exclusive at first glance: Two unnamed sources from the Biden camp told the network that the new administration will need "to build everything from scratch" regarding distribution of the vaccines.
"Another source described the moment that it became clear the Biden administration would have to essentially start from 'square one' because there simply was no plan as: 'Wow, just further affirmation of complete incompetence,'" the scoop added.
Enter Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is now heading Biden's coronavirus task force, to throw cold water on the story: “We’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas with the previous administration. You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all. So, we are continuing but you're going to see a real ramping up of it.”
Basic math says the original story should not have seen the light of day. Overall, more than 35 million doses have been injected into American arms since distribution began last month. The U.S. is on pace to administer just under one million vaccinations per day. This doesn't happen by accident, and it should have prompted the original reporter, MJ Lee, to go beyond her sources and directly to Fauci, who is always accessible.
And one more problem: The original tweet – which includes nearly 20,000 retweets and likes – is still up. The Fauci update? About 1,400 retweets and likes as of Saturday.
"There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch." -->— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) January 21, 2021
Sources told CNN there simply was no vaccine distribution plan under Trump, leaving Biden and his team having to essentially start from "square one." https://t.co/u2hwMVMt10
Fauci, a holdover from the Trump administration, said about the previous admin's vaccine distribution efforts: "You can't say it was absolutely not usable at all."— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) January 21, 2021
(In the last hour, Biden said Trump's vaccine rollout had been a "dismal failure")
5) MSNBC’s tone was particularly troubling regarding the silencing of Trump supporters and ending any future employment opportunities for anyone remotely involved with the administration.
"I wonder if you have thought through, kind of, how Republicans begin what someone on my team earlier today called 'de-Baathification' of the Republican Party?" host Joy Reid asked. "And I wonder if Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThird Republican drops out of race to replace Cheney after Trump endorses challenger Overnight Energy & Environment — Effort to repeal Arctic refuge drilling advances McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE, her statement being the thing ... the Democrats used ... to explain why they needed to impeach Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE, is there a little wing of the Republican Party that you think can do this sort of de-Baathification of the party? And can it work at this point?"
“De-Baathification” is a reference to what happened in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, when all public-sector employees who worked for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party were removed from office and banned from working in the country's government or military again.
"Look, I think that the challenge is, the rot is from the grassroots all the way to the presidency, so that the rot is at every layer," fellow host Nicolle Wallace responded to Reid.
A stunning new Axios poll shows that 58 percent of Americans think that "most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public."
If what we've witnessed over the past few days during the inauguration and afterward is any indication, that poll result doesn't seem so stunning after all.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.