If you weighed the importance of a scandal based on the amount of media coverage generated in recent weeks, you’d think that George Santos is the biggest threat the nation currently faces. Bigger even than Donald Trump, and much bigger than President Joe Biden, who has hoarded highly classified documents in unsecured locations for the past six years.
Who is George Santos, you ask? He’s nobody. He’s just one of 435 congressmen elected in the 2022 midterms. He’s someone who would normally get zero press attention, even if he had done something incredibly stupid like lie about his background to get elected.
But Santos, you see, is a newly elected Republican lawmaker from New York, one of a handful from that state, who won a swing district on Long Island and now serves in a House where the GOP holds a tiny majority.
For that reason – and that alone – he’s become the subject of an absolute media frenzy. An army of reporters follows him wherever he goes, demanding that he answer for his “crimes” and explain why he won’t step down. Reporters are plumbing every angle and looking into every crack and crevice to keep this story on the front page.
On Wednesday, the New York Times devoted two stories on the main page of its website to Santos – one of them written by its fashion critic. (See below.)
A Google search of news items about Santos that were posted in the past week produced 16.5 million results! (See below.)
Here’s a tiny sampling of headlines from major news outlets from the past few days:
- “Records show Rep. George Santos’s mother wasn’t in New York on 9/11”
- “Long Island GOP leader says he has proof Rep. George Santos admitted to crimes in Brazil”
- “New details link George Santos to cousin of sanctioned Russian oligarch”
- “My new co-worker George Santos is a distraction and a danger to democracy”
- “Records show George Santos made questionable payments to vendors, experts say”
Now, let’s turn to the Biden classified documents story.
Unlike Santos, Biden is a person of some importance. The scandal he’s currently embroiled in doesn’t involve lying about his background – although Biden has done that repeatedly – it involves the mishandling of highly classified documents, which Biden kept in his possession for six years.
It also involves dubious claims by Biden that he knew nothing about any of it, White House stonewalling, double standards by the FBI, new levels of incompetence by Biden’s press secretary, and other juicy angles. Furthermore, the story of the president’s lapses come just weeks after the same media outlets had fits of apoplexy involving classified documents found at Trump’s home.
So how is the press treating the Biden story? The way it treats all scandals involving Democrats – grudgingly and with extreme indifference.
A Google search news items about “Biden ‘classified documents’” produces just 4,680 results. (See below.)
These are just print mentions. It would be interesting to see how much time cable and network news have devoted to the two stories.
Meanwhile, while we haven’t done a precise measure, we’d estimate that about half of the news stories about the Biden scandal are attempts by the legacy media to absolve him or explain why the Biden and Trump classified document cases aren’t on the same plane. In contrast to the screaming headlines about Santos, we’re seeing these about Biden:
- “Americans see Biden’s handling of classified docs as inappropriate — but not criminal, poll shows”
- “The Dramatic Differences Between the Trump and Biden Document Dramas”
- “Fact check: Biden did have the authority to declassify documents as vice president”
We try not to devote too much time and energy here at Issues & Insights to media bias because it could easily turn into a full-time occupation and because it seems so pointless.
But every once in a while the legacy media depraves itself in an entirely new way. The comparative way they are treating scandals involving a congressman of no importance and the leader of the free world is one such example.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board