WaPo 'Right Turn' Blogger Trashes Conservative Media; Post Edits It Harsher for Paper

The Washington Post selected Jennifer Rubin as their “Right Turn” blogger, which to many has seemed like the wrong title. It should be “Romney’s Turn.” But when the Post publishes her blogs in excerpted form in the newspaper, they’re making her even sharper in attacking the “hard right” of the Republican Party.

In Monday’s paper, Rubin lashed out at the New Hampshire Union Leader’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich by slamming the entire conservative media as “embarrassingly bad.” The Post's gleeful headline is "Conservative media blow another story." But any nuance she placed in this attack on her blog was edited out by the Posties. Check out how harsh Rubin sounds on the page:

The track record of the right-leaning media (including talk shows and blogs) has been embarrassingly bad this election cycle. Some of the errors are rudimentary ones that get repeated every cycle — the fixation on early national polls and the overemphasis on money.

They have been far worse than many mainstream publications in analyzing the candidates’ weaknesses and recognizing problematic issues and performances. With some notable exceptions, the conservative media chose to circle the wagons rather than report accurately and analyze smartly the serious missteps of those who, for a time, occupied the top tier in national polls.

This failure can be partly attributed to conservative media’s investment in debunking the mainstream media. (For example, reports on accusations against Herman Cain are deemed a ploty to deny the GOP an African American nominee.)

Moreover, because of the aversion to liberal media outlets, blogs and the rest, the conservative media become, with each passing year, more ideologically isolated and inward-looking. It deadens the political antenna and distorts the evaluation of candidates when the audience in mind is one part (the hard right) of the Republican Party.

The good news is that the GOP voters seem much savvier than much of the coverage in their consideration of the candidates.

When you go to Rubin’s blog, you quickly notice that this has not been merely excerpted. It’s been rewritten. The Posties did not alter the general thrust of Rubin’s indictment of the conservative media, but she touts some conservative media figures and adds nuance – which the Post removed. It can’t be said that passages were removed for space. It was rewritten to pack a wallop. Here’s the same passage in the original blog, with bold to emphasize what's been removed or altered:

But in this presidential primary the conservative media has been far worse than many mainstream publications in analyzing the candidates’ weaknesses and recognizing problematic issues and performances. With some notable exceptions (Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, Quin Hillyer of American Spectator, David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner and Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute come to mind), the conservative media chose to circle the wagons rather than report accurately and analyze smartly the serious missteps of those who, for a time, occupied the top tier in national polls.

Part of this failure to acknowledge the obvious can be attributed to the general antipathy toward Mitt Romney, whom conservative media figures calculated might benefit from a more honest assessment of his opponents. But that’s not the entire story.

The conservative media has become so invested in debunking and decrying the mainstream media, that too many on the right act out of contrariness.

CNN commentators say Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s debate performances stunk, so it must be a plot to deprive the GOP of a conservative standard-bearer.

Politico is uncovering Herman Cain’s past female accusers, so it must be a plot to prevent conservatives from having an African American nominee.

Moreover, because of the aversion to liberal media outlets, blogs and the rest, the conservative media become, with each passing year, more ideologically isolated and inward-looking. It deadens the political antenna and distorts the evaluation of candidates when the audience in mind is one part (the hard right) of the Republican Party.

The conservative movement requires honest analysis and fulsome debate, and the good news is that the GOP voters seem much savvier than much of the coverage in their consideration of the candidates. They may have been overly optimistic about the prospects of Cain or Perry, for example, but they watched, listened and then abandoned highly flawed candidates.

Presented with the original, Rubin is still a transparent special pleader for Romney. But is the Post editing liberal Greg Sargent for the paper by removing all his nuance when he attacks President Obama? Or is the Post just editing Rubin so it can better enjoy the conservative outrage that results?

Obviously, we wouldn't want to hold our breath waiting for the Post to publish Rubin trashing the liberal media with this much intensity.

Rubin could be right that there's a political danger in reacting over-defensively to liberal media attacks on Republican front-runners. But there is also a political danger in reacting under-defensively to liberal media attacks. Conservatives should recognize that the media isn't carefully vetting Republicans in order to assist GOP voters in making the right choice. It's trashing Republicans to insure a smoother path to re-election for President Obama. If the evidence of the last five years hasn't established for Rubin that the media are overtly pro-Obama, then nothing will.

It's also not "ideologically isolated" to insist on actual evidence against a candidate, like an actual name and a resume, before Republicans throw a Herman Cain under the bus. It's not "ideologically isolated" to think the Post's anti-Perry coverage of the "N-head" rock that can be seen through the white paint was ludicrously oversold. Media criticism and skepticism should not be carelessly dismissed as a denial of "honest analysis and fulsome debate."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis