Biased Reporting: Just Ask Us!

President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the press was “rigging the election.” He was specifically referring to the liberal media, which appeared to have anointed Hillary Clinton as the first woman president despite Trump’s impressive victories in the Republican primaries. While it might be said that both candidates were flawed in many ways, the press clearly played down the Clinton failings while greatly highlighting Trump’s past transgressions.

In fact, The New York Times rushed to endorse Mrs. Clinton as early as September 23, well before it customarily endorses candidates for the highest office in the land. It endorsed President Obama on October 23 in 2008, on October 27 in 2012, John Kerry on October 17 in 2004, and Vice President Al Gore on October 17 in 2000. The rush to endorse Mrs. Clinton was no accident. It was already clear in the primaries that they were determined to stymie Trump’s run for the presidency. Once he won the nomination, even against the strong opposition of the Republican establishment, The Times and the other liberal media sharpened their attacks against Trump. By some counts, more than 90 percent of The Times’s coverage of Mr. Trump since winning the nomination was negative. This was a pattern that was very much consistent with the entire liberal media, including the likes of CNN and The Washington Post.

For fair-minded Americans, the thought that the press had used its First Amendment privilege to all but become kingmakers was a frightening one. It was more reminiscent of a government-controlled press in which the media directs the electorate to vote for “the” candidate. Many dictators and despots stayed in power for years arguing that they had “free” elections, knowing full well that they controlled the minds of the voters through the press. Just three days after the election, executive editor Dean Baquet and publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. of The Times issued an “apology,” promising to “rededicate ourselves” to good journalism — while insisting that they “reported on both candidates fairly during the presidential campaign.” In later versions published by The Times, this sentence was removed, as they received enormous pushback from readers. The word “fairly” particularly irked even some of their most loyal readers.

But did the tone of The Times change after the apology? Absolutely not. Almost 90 percent of the coverage of the president-elect’s efforts to form a government since then were just as negative as before. The remorse felt by the Left over the defeat of their hand-picked liberal icon was glaring in the continued coverage of the soon-to-be 45th president of the United States. The point is that it is the press that unabashedly leads the liberal cabal, without fulfilling its obligation to be a marketplace of ideas, which is what the First Amendment really sought to protect. Instead of exercising its right to opinion on a special editorial page and perhaps an adjacent opinion page, every bit of the news coverage is, to say the least, biased. One might wonder what the point of an editorial is when the news coverage smacks of the same tone and arrives at the same conclusion.

To our community, this brand of skewed reporting is not new. We have long suffered from biased reporting not only by the general media but also by the liberal Jewish media which in many respects sets the tone for how we are being covered in the general press. The secular Jewish papers have long practiced biased coverage whenever it came to reporting on what they perceived to be a transgression by the Orthodox Jewish community or by individual Orthodox Jews. In a way, their “gotcha” whenever it comes to the Orthodox might be explained as more of a self-justification for being devoid of any Torah values. How often is it that the liberal media identifies a person accused of committing an alleged offense as being Orthodox or chassidic when it does not use the same standard to label other alleged criminals? We have long suffered from this double standard, although it probably also puts an enormous responsibility on our behavior as Torah Jews.

The reportage on Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin is a case in point. He was so vilified by the secular Jewish media and by extension the liberal secular media that he was ultimately given a 27-year sentence for only one offense, which was bank fraud (he was cleared of the other allegations). People who committed similar or even greater offenses received only a fraction of his sentence. It was clear that the biased reporting that created an atmosphere of a demonized Reb Sholom Mordechai had sealed his fate.

Biased reporting against Orthodox Jews is common when it comes to chareidi communities, as we have seen in Monroe County and Ramapo. It has manifested itself when budding frum communities sought to build a shul, mikveh, or even an eruv. It is particularly disturbing when the biased coverage leads to blatant anti-Semitism. Even in the current climate, in which people are taking to the streets to protest the election of Donald Trump — as if our democratic system of government gives a voter a backup right to dissent — anti-Semitic acts are becoming more common. Trump rightfully accused the media of fostering these protests. What he meant is that biased reporting has its consequences, as we in the frum community are so fully aware of.

Biased reporting has long legs. If the press continues to sully his reputation, Trump will find it exceedingly difficult to unite the country. On the contrary, the press will be responsible for a new unbridgeable divide. The bias against our community is equally as devastating because it perpetuates an undeserved stereotype that manifests itself in every aspect of society. The average reader will not be privy to a community that behaves in exemplary fashion in every regard with a network of social service and volunteerism that are unmatched in the country, with an educational system that turns out some of our best citizens, and a network of institutions that does a superb job of caring for our disadvantaged.

We now know that even polling can be skewed to the point that it is inaccurate. Many researchers say that people this time around were either not telling the truth to the pollsters or their sample of subjects was erroneous, perhaps polling more Democrats than Republicans, for example. Irrespective, biased reporting of the type that was demonstrated in this past election makes the press culpable in societal changes that even they may regret.