When I watched the nightly network newscasts in the first two years of the Biden administration, there was something often missing from the “news” — sound bites from Republicans. They were in the minority of both houses of Congress, so perhaps you could claim they didn’t have much power in Washington.
But what about now? This thought returned to my mind as I watched the “NBC Nightly News” on March 7. Over the half-hour, NBC presented five sound bites of President Joe Biden or his administration. None of them reflected badly on Team Biden. The Republicans were never consulted for their expertise or opinion. This was fairly subtle, and maybe didn’t feel as politicized as it was. Here are the five sound bites in context.
In a story on two Americans being killed in Matamoros, Mexico, NBC gave us State Department spokesman Ned Price: “We extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.” Later in the story came a clip of Attorney General Merrick Garland: “The cartels are responsible for the deaths of Americans, and we are fighting as hard as possible, the DEA and FBI, doing everything possible.”
Are they, though? Erick Erickson tweeted a broader view on that day, which didn’t make NBC: “More than 600 Americans were abducted by drug cartels in Mexico in 2021 yet the issue is treated as a local crime story. If ISIS or any other Middle Eastern terrorist organization did this, an all-out war would be declared.” But only Garland’s doing-everything assurance is “news.”
Next, in a story on a crazy man stabbing a flight attendant, correspondent Tom Costello reported “the acting FAA chief has called an aviation safety summit for next week. The question — has complacency become a problem in cockpits and control towers?” Then came a snippet from Billy Nolen: “I want specific ideas about how to enhance our already robust safety net with concrete actions.” Team Biden has an “already robust safety net.” There’s no need for a rebuttal.
In a story on Communist China being upset about alleged American overreach in their support for Taiwan, there was State Department spokesman Price again: “This is not about containing China. This is not about suppressing China. This is not about holding China back.”
The fifth sound bite came from the president. NBC reported a story on how its show “Dateline NBC” helped spring an innocent man from prison who was wrongly convicted of murdering a police officer. Lester Holt explained: “At a White House forum last fall J.J. (Velazquez) got something he didn’t expect. You got an apology from the president of the United States.” Biden said, “On behalf of all society, I apologize.” Velazquez said, “It meant a lot to me because it meant recognition.”
The story that most deserved a Republican response that night was White House reporter Kristen Welker relaying a reversal in Biden’s immigration policy: “Sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News the Biden administration is considering detaining migrant families illegally.” Everything former President Donald Trump did on immigration was treated as scandalous, but Welker offered no sound bites of criticism for Biden — from Republicans or from angry “immigrant advocates” on the left.
Overall, NBC is presenting Team Biden as competent, compassionate experts. Controversy — or the need to manufacture it — is absent. It’s calm seas and “robust” management. Democrats are running the executive branch, and the impression is left that all is right with the world.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.