WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ new Democratic presidential frontrunner status is bringing him more scrutiny and to that end, the subject of this column is Sanders’ unbecoming press bashing.
Sanders’ attacks on the mainstream news media — his most frequent target is the Washington Post — undercuts American journalism.
The Vermont Independent is surging. If he wins the South Carolina primary Saturday and does well in the 15 Super Tuesday states and territories March 3, he will build a commanding delegate lead.
On Tuesday night, there’s another Democratic debate, this time in Charleston. There will be seven rivals on stage. It’s a good bet Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and/or Tom Steyer will be taking shots at Sanders.
Sanders’ crusade against billionaires and corporations is jazzing up a lot of people and getting them engaged in politics. Sanders is the Democrat attracting the biggest crowds.
At the same time, Sanders’ views on media ownership are leading him, at times, toward unfounded conspiracy theories.
Sanders started disapproving of the “corporate media” in general years ago. Sanders’ anti-corporatism has morphed to particular criticism of stories and coverage about his campaign he does not like.
Last Friday, the Washington Post had a scoop headlined, “Bernie Sanders briefed by U.S. officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign.”
Later on Friday, Sanders confirmed to reporters he had the briefing — more than month ago. He told reporters, “Russia, stay out of American elections ... they are trying to cause chaos, they are trying to cause hatred in America.”
Asked by reporters why, if his briefing was a month ago, the news broke Friday, the day before the Nevada caucus.
“I’ll let you guess … Why do you think it came out? The Washington Post? Good friends,” Sanders said with sarcasm.
Sanders won Nevada last Saturday and that night, at a rally in San Antonio, he said the “corporate elite and the one percent” have “literally unlimited amounts of money. They have significant control over the media, over our economy and over the political life of this country.”
Sanders has accused the Post of bias against his campaign because, he has said, he has been an outspoken critic of the labor and tax avoidance strategies of Amazon. The post is owned by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos.
At an event last August in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Sanders said he talks about Amazon’s practices “all of the time. And then I wonder why The Washington Post — which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon — doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why. But I guess maybe there’s a connection. Maybe we helped raise the minimum wage at Amazon to 15 bucks an hour as well.”
Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor, said in a statement at that time, “Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Baron said. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”
On Sunday, a Sanders e-mail fundraising appeal said “the establishments – Democratic, financial, media and Republican — are beyond nervous. They are in full panic mode. They’re realizing they no longer have the power — we do.”
I am not comparing or equating Sanders to President Donald Trump and his war on facts.
I am throwing a spotlight on a Sanders problem area.
I get that Sanders uses the media as a foil. I get he has grievances stemming from reasonable beefs about his coverage. But that’s no excuse for Sanders’ drive to try to weaken the credibility of the U.S. press.