How the Press and Pundits are Again Mystified by the Obvious

How the Press and Pundits are Again Mystified by the Obvious

The Art of Being Eternally Shocked

By Jonathan Turley

No one would think of the Beltway as being a place of the naive innocents of our society. Washington is the only ecosystem composed entirely of apex predators. Yet, this week everyone seems to be eternally shocked by what has been obvious for years.

The press and pundits are coming off an embarrassing couple of weeks where the Hunter Biden laptop was authenticated in federal court as real. This occurred in the trial of the president’s son almost on the anniversary of a debunked letter of intelligence officials claiming that the laptop appeared to be Russian disinformation. Biden then repeated the claim in the last presidential debates to avoid answering questions over the massive influence peddling scheme of this family revealed by the laptop.

After the story was suppressed before the 2020 election, it took years for the media to admit that, oops, the laptop is surprisingly real.

For years, the press and pundits piled on experts who suggested that Covid 19 escaped from a Chinese lab. The New York Times reporter covering the area called it “racist” and implausible.  Now, even W.H.O. accepts the lab theory as possible and federal agencies now believe it is the most likely explanation.

The response: surprise and spin.

This week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Justice Department has unlawfully charged hundreds of people with obstruction of an official proceeding after the January 6th riot. For years, objections to the excessive treatment of these cases were dismissed as the view of the radical right. Now, even Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson voted to toss out these convictions.


Whether it was the false story about agents whipping migrants in Texas or the photo op claim in Lafayette Park, false stories were disproven only to have a collective shrug from those who spread them.

For years, the press and pundits have repeated like gospel that Trump had called neo-Nazis “fine people.” At the time, most of us noted that Trump condemned the racists and neo-Nazis and made the statement about fine people on both sides of the controversy over the removal of historic statues.

Six years later, Snopes finally decided to do a fact check and, surprise, found that Trump never praised neo-Nazis as fine people. The only person not surprised was Biden who repeated the false story on Friday as true.

Heading into the presidential debate, the White House and the media attacked Fox News and other outlets for “cheap fake” videos designed to make the President look confused and feeble. For months, politicians and pundits have insisted that Biden is sharp and commanding in conversations even after Special Counsel Robert Hur cited his decline as a reason for not charging him criminally for the unlawful retention and mishandling of classified material.

On MSNBC, Joe Scarborough stated “start your tape right now because I’m about to tell you the truth. And F— you if you can’t handle the truth. This version of Biden intellectually, analytically, is the best Biden ever. Not a close second. And I have known him for years…If it weren’t the truth I wouldn’t say it.”

Then the presidential debate happened and, after years of being protected by staff, tens of millions of people watched the president struggle to stay focused and responsive.

After the debate, there was total surprise, if not shock, on CNN and MSNBC. Suddenly, it is not a cheap fake but reality.

Just seven days before the debate, the New York Times was running cheap fake articles on how Biden was being wrongly portrayed. The day after the debate, it was calling for him to withdraw from the race after expressing shock at his appearance.

On CNN, Biden biographer and CNN contributor Evan Osnos admitted that many Americans were likely “shocked” by Biden’s appearance: “I don’t think there’s any other way to put it. This was clearly a person who was diminished from where he was on the debate stage four years ago.”

Pro-Biden columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that he was floored by what he saw and that “heartbreaking” appearance of Biden made him “weep.”

Washington is now full of surprises. It is a city of people who display that practiced faux shock that you adopt when you learn in advance that your friends are throwing a surprise party. The key is to look stunned and then mingle.

It is a city of Claude Rains:

The laptop is real, the President is really old, and Washington is really really phony.

The only thing that would be more surprising is if pundits and the press started being a lot less shocked and more honest.


(TLB) published  this article from Jonathan Turley with our appreciation for this perspective

jonathan turley profile

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

Header featured image (edited) credit: Lady Screaming/Cover art from A. Brad Schwartz’s book “Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News.”

Emphasis added by (TLB)



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