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Donald Trump And The Media’s ‘Birther’ Myth

What on earth does the credibility of conservatives have to do with the media covering a worthwhile story?


Ponder the above tweet from the managing editor of Bloomberg Politics.

You might have a few questions: Like, what on earth does the credibility of “conservatives” have to do with the media covering a worthwhile story? Is conservative credibility a prerequisite for an unbiased media to investigate stories that matter? If so, is there a handbook available that instructs conservatives on who they need to condemn or what they need to think so that reporters would be enticed to cover the Planned Parenthood organ harvesting story? Because I’m pretty sure many of them would happily ingratiate themselves to the right people to get it done.

Then again, credibility is a tricky thing. Because, let’s be honest, the mainstream political media’s obsession with covering Donald Trump as if he were a genuine candidate (rather than a hobbyhorse for an angry 12 percent), or as if he embodied some genuine faction on the Right, or as if he were a monster the Republican Party had created, is a media effort to undermine the “credibility” of conservatives.

Just like birtherism was, by the way.

No one was more absorbed in that bizarre sideshow more than political media, which, as it does with Trump, fed the beast and then covered the beast as it had nothing to do with its existence. ‘Hey, look at those racist conspiracy theorists over there’ was, no doubt, a fun beat — but you have to wonder how many national Republicans and conservatives needed to be critical of preposterous media-whoring vanity candidates, or the conspiracy theorists that cheer him on, to buy credibility with the political media.

No Republican leader of note ever perpetuated birtherism, many (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 etc …) distanced themselves from Trump and Birthers (who at the times had as much to do with the Democratic Party as they did with the Republican). But, apparently, credibility can only be bought with unanimous censure of every elected Republican in the nation. That won’t stop E.J. Dionne from repeating these myths—his tweet using almost the same wording as Halperin.

Even if you believe that coverage of Trump and Birthers was necessary, why aren’t similar purity tests given to all political movements? Believe it or not, every party features plenty of gibbering and condemnable halfwits.

One Scripps Howard survey asked people in 2006: “How likely is it that people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?” And over 22 percent of Democrats said it was “very likely,” and over 28 percent it was “somewhat likely.”

So, in other words, more than half of Democrats at the time—and this wasn’t the only poll to find similar numbers—believed that George Bush was complicit in the worst terror attack on the United States history.

Did the media find this credible? Did anyone ask every single liberal candidate or officeholder to denounce all these Democrats for their nonsensical views? How about GMO truther like Bernie Sanders? Or vaccine truthers that infest progressive circles? Has Hillary Clinton been asked to tell her constituents that, yes, jet fuel only burns at 1500°F, but it is enough to warp and damage steel so that it will compromise structural strength? Actually, has Halperin ever asked about Hillary about birtherism itself? Dionne claims that Republicans were “bowing before Trump” even though the “the man was the midwife of birtherism.”

I must have been mistaken. I thought it was delivered in South Carolina by frustrated Democrats. Where did it start? From a Politico piece in 2011:

The answer lies in Democratic, not Republican politics, and in the bitter, exhausting spring of 2008. At the time, the Democratic presidential primary was slipping away from Hillary Clinton and some of her most passionate supporters grasped for something, anything that would deal a final reversal to Barack Obama.

Nothing says credibility like birthing birtherism.