After Hur, WashPost Media Critic Erik Wemple Takes On 'MSNBC's Biden Memory Hole'

February 16th, 2024 5:23 PM

On Thursday, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple (a frequent Fox News critic) penned an article decrying "MSNBC's Biden Memory Hole." In the aftermath of Robert Hur's report and its passages on Biden's faulty memory, Wemple honed in on the Peacock Progressives: "As the debate churns, we need to look at the model laid out by MSNBC — one of institutional denial and stubborn unwillingness to level with its viewers."

He began with a little pun: "In a discussion last Thursday night on Biden’s age and fitness for office, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said, “He rides a bike.” With that remark, Maddow put forth one of MSNBC’s more creative means of soft-pedaling the president’s declining faculties." Has Maddow never seen the video of Biden falling off his bike? 

Wemple found one episode disturbing: On September 28, 2022 at an anti-hunger event in DC, Biden offered praise to supportive lawmakers. 

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” the president said as he scanned the room. “I didn’t think she was — she wasn’t going to be here — to help make this a reality.” That was a reference to Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who had died in a car crash more than a month before the event, prompting Biden to issue a statement offering his condolences.... 

NPRThe Washington Post and the New York Times were among the many outlets that wrote it up. Yet MSNBC didn’t air it, as pointed out by media critics from the HillFox News and NewsBusters. There was no excuse, considering that the “Where’s Jackie” episode — as well as Jean-Pierre’s subsequent obstructionism — was best appreciated on video.

Wemple added "MSNBC, though, has a particular place among cable news networks in shielding Biden from age-related criticism. Why didn’t it cover the story? We asked the network and have yet to receive a response."

He noted MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace interviewed then-White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on October 3, just days after the “Where’s Jackie?” episode, "a perfect time for some accountability."

As she approached the issue, Wallace sounded as though she were going to take it head-on, saying she was posing “a question to you that I think our viewers won’t like — I’m not sure you will like.” But the question wasn’t about the actual episode; it was about what happened in a subsequent meeting between the president and Walorski’s grieving family.

Her question was this: 

The president, on Friday, signed a bill to honor the late Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, Republican from Indiana, in a private ceremony with her family and with Kevin McCarthy....I don`t know if you were in the room, but to be a fly on the wall is something I would wish for, if I had the genie wish. Can you take us inside that conversation with the family?

Wemple added: "After Klain gave an unspectacular answer, Wallace said, 'We’ll leave it at that. Enough has been made of that story.' Viewers were entitled to wonder what she was talking about."

The article closed with Jen Psaki shaming reporters on Meet the Press for covering Biden's acuity more than Trump's wild remarks about under-paying NATO countries. Wemple summed up: "Trump, who has his own record of lapses, inevitably makes critical coverage of his rivals look like small potatoes. But fierce and disinterested coverage of the president — whatever its timing and circumstances — is one norm we can’t let Trump ruin."

Sadly, the recent Dylan Byers report at Puck demonstrated that the norm among White House reporters was to disregard their own observations about Biden's failings because the subject was "indelicate." That "memory hole" was much bigger than just MSNBC.