In the wake of this week’s monumental meltdown of the three top officials in Virginia government (all Democrats), one is left wondering where the mainstream media were during the election of these politicians who are now severely damaged by deeds from their pasts that could have been revealed and reported on before their electoral victories.
To understand how, and perhaps why, the mainstream press ignored and neglected the headline-grabbing scandals gripping Richmond today, one must recall the era in which these Democrat embarrassments were elected.
In 2017, the election of Democrats Ralph Northam for governor, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring for attorney general, along with a large number of Democratic state delegates, provided a major media narrative that Virginia had repudiated President Trump in the first major electoral contest after his stunning 2016 victory. It set the stage for the “blue wave” narrative parroted day after day leading to the November midterm elections: America, with Virginia in the lead, will correct the historic mistake of 2016. Virginia rejected Trump. America will reject Trump.
The 2017 Virginia Democrats weren’t shy about the messaging they employed to tell their constituents what they would be voting against: “Trump is a racist and a sexist, and if you vote Republican, you’re racist and sexist too.”
Supporters of Mr. Northam even ran one of the most despicable campaign ads in recent memory against moderate, establishment Republican Ed Gillespie. It depicted a pickup truck with Confederate flag regalia and a Trump bumper sticker chasing down minority children in a peaceful neighborhood. The children ran from the truck in fear for their lives as if being hunted like victims in a horror film.
Now Mr. Northam is embroiled in an embarrassing scandal showing his youthful flirtation with racist behavior (was he the one in blackface or the one in the KKK hood?) and Virginians are left wondering why they are learning about this one year into his term. Mr. Gillespie, a New Jersey native, appears to be the furthest thing from a racist, pickup-driving Confederate yahoo. Mr. Northam? Well, if the hood fits …
Meanwhile, Mr. Fairfax is embroiled in a much more serious scandal involving a detailed, credible accusation of sexual assault. The Washington Post had this story handed to it on a silver platter and refused because it was a “he said, she said” accusation. Pretty rich considering its full-court press against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom the media proclaimed guilty after Christine Blasey Ford’s sketchy, uncorroborated and frequently morphing story.
The 2017 election was held one month after the explosive report on Harvey Weinstein. The #MeToo movement was launched, but The Washington Post sat on the sidelines when it came to the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, Mr. Herring was a darling of the mainstream media because he championed every possible social justice cause, including his refusal to defend his own state’s constitution when it came to the definition of marriage. Why would any respectable reporter look in Mr. Herring’s closets?
In the same election cycle, Virginia Republicans at every level of politics had to defend the Trump administration and every policy, tweet and utterance from the president himself. Democrats didn’t need to push their opponents over their affiliation with Mr. Trump’s party; the media did it for them.
The media’s abdication of their responsibility in 2017 was because most outlets loved the larger theme and narrative that Republicans are toast while connected to Mr. Trump. Ezra Klein’s Vox article after Mr. Northam won was headlined “Gillespie’s loss shows Donald Trump has made Trumpism toxic.”
If any one of the three Democrats lost (especially Mr. Northam), the larger story would have been lost and the true meaning of the 2017 election would not have triggered the “blue wave” narrative that sustained the Democrats through 2018. So real political reporting (looking in trash cans, hunting down past scandals, spying long-lost college yearbooks) took a back seat to cheerleading for the party.
The Washington Post just spent $5 million on a 60-second Super Bowl advertisement. “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free,” state the self-important titles in the well-produced video. The implication is clear: Reporters deliver the vital information you need to make good decisions, like who to vote for.
But perhaps if media outlets spent less money on telling a worldwide football audience how great they are and instead hired some objective reporters to really vet our political candidates, then Virginia wouldn’t be the nation’s laughingstock right now.
⦁ Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryOConnor.