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Washington Post Reporter Gets Defensive About Health Reporting Flip Flops


On Tuesday, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote a piece headlined, “Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?” In the fiery post, he said any and all questions about Clinton’s health are “absurd” and “ridiculous.”

Within about 20 seconds, observers reminded him that he wrote at length about Sen. John McCain’s health when the Republican senator from Arizona was running against President Barack Obama in 2008.

So on Wednesday, Cillizza wrote a piece headlined, “Why I wrote about John McCain’s health in 2008 (and don’t think we should write about Hillary’s health now).”

The piece is embarrassingly bad. You know things aren’t going well when the phrase “conservatives … seized on” is used in the very first paragraph. What did they “seize on”? Well, they seem to have noticed that he wasn’t terribly consistent in his anger about coverage of potential health problems for politicians. They pointed to his piece from 2008 about McCain’s medical history.

He describes his piece from eight years ago and says, “The basic thesis of the piece was that McCain and his team pulled off a political masterstroke by releasing so much documentation (1,100 pages!) when they did — the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.”

“Hypocrite! Hack! Biased! Liberal!” he rhetorically exclaims. But no, he says, you have it all wrong. He says his participation in the McCain health beat versus his strenuous objection to writing about Clinton’s health is nothing more than an “apples and oranges” comparison.

See, Cillizza explains, if McCain were elected, he would have been 72 years old. “That fact alone made his health a major issue in the context of the campaign.”

So that’s the orange. The apple, if you will, is that Hillary Clinton would be 69 years old if she were elected. Why, that’s all the difference in the world! One would have been 72. The other would have been 69! Case closed. That’ll show you, conservative seizers!

I wish I were joking. I am not joking. It was so bad that it elicited this funny tweet from McCain’s daughter Meghan.

Cillizza adds other things. See, McCain openly joshed about his age and his wounds from being a prisoner of war, whereas Hillary Clinton is notoriously tight-lipped about anything that could ever be construed as negative information about her. So that’s another reason, in the mind of this journalist, that one should be covered and one should not be.

And, well, McCain had previously had melanoma in 2000, whereas Clinton has never had any negative medical history at all so long as you don’t count the blood clot in her brain last year that led to a concussion, memory loss, and an inability to work full days, or the medication she’s on to treat past problems. But see, the melanoma that McCain was completely forthright about is “serious stuff” and 30 percent of voters expressed concern about his age!

The brain injury (which Cillizza downgrades to a little old “concussion”) is something we don’t know much about but an “actual doctor who has actually examined Clinton” says she’s actually fully recovered so there’s actually nothing more to be said about the matter — even though when doctors said the same about McCain, there was more to be said about it. Also, pollsters haven’t even asked about Clinton’s health or age, so we don’t know how many are concerned about it, unlike the pollsters who asked about McCain after the press elevated the issue.

So three years and dramatically different standards of transparency make the difference between a decrepit and decaying shell of a human being who will likely die in office (McCain just won his primary for another Senate term, we might note) and a spry young woman able to sprint an entire marathon.

But even if you buy that explanation, which you should not, if you are of even mild intelligence, there were other problems. Note how zealously Cillizza covered health angles for candidates not named Clinton.


It wasn’t just a double standard for presidential candidates, but one applied to lower-level Republicans as well.

“Apples, meet oranges. Thanks for playing,” Cillizza concludes.

He kind of has a point. It’s not that our media have a blatantly obvious double standard about how they cover the issues of the day so much as a single standard. Treat apples well and oranges horribly.