Perhaps bailing may overstate the swing, but the coverage of Joe Biden’s classified-documents scandal has shifted in tone — noticeably. Until yesterday’s appointment of a special counsel by Merrick Garland, every major media outlet treated this scandal as a cynical GOP-generated distraction from Donald Trump’s legal fight over classified material held at Mar-a-Lago.
At CNN this morning, however, Don Lemon — Don Frickin’ Lemon! — scolded Chuck Schumer for trying to blow off serious questions about Biden’s behavior:
POPPY HARLOW: So you said the president is fully cooperated and there’s no indication that he and the White House have not. But there is a real question about transparency and what the American people deserve. Let me just let.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: The prosecutors will get to the bottom of this and let’s let them do it, for God’s sakes!
POPPY HARLOW: I hear you!
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: I know you all want to buzz around and all of that, but bottom line is…
POPPY HARLOW: But let me let me buzz for a minute. Let me let me buzz for one minute. And I promise we’ll get on to something else…
DON LEMON: It’s not just, hold on, it’s not just us buzzing around. You’re the Democratic head of the Senate. This is a really important issue. It’s not just buzzing around. This is serious stuff.
Kudos to Lemon, and really to the whole panel, which refused to let Schumer off the hook this morning.
Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the coverage on CBS News this morning, where the hosts expressed considerable frustration with the White House and especially press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “For the second straight day,” anchor Errol Barnett notes, “[s]he has not answered a single question, outside of a prewritten statement by the president’s lawyers.”
BARNETT: “For a second straight day now, the White House struggling to answer any questions related to classified documents discovered at locations associated with President Biden, citing — Karine Jean-Pierre there, the press secretary, simply reading a statement, where she says the president was surprised by the discovery, takes this matter very seriously, documents were inadvertently misplaced and he doesn’t know what’s in them. But, Lana, we have been listening here. She has not answered a single question, outside of a prewritten statement by the president’s lawyers.”
ZAK: “Exactly. And continuing then to say the same thing again and again. Even in response to very simple questions about the timeline, about the specific location, clarifying questions, and continuing to use the word ‘transparent’ and saying that they did things in a transparent manner. You heard our own CBS’s Ed O’Keefe, really trying to pin her down on what she means by transparency when she’s saying that she has been transparent, does that mean legal transparency, governmental transparency as required by law, or public transparency? We are going to continue to set those questions to the government — “
What about the mainstream press? USA Today features a lengthy analysis of the scandal from Michael Collins on “Biden’s classified documents scandal” that details four ways that it could damage or destroy his presidency. Collins includes a lot of Republican pouncing in this analysis and maintains the argument that the Trump case is “different.” However, Collins also points out the potential for the appearance of a double standard if both cases don’t have the same prosecutorial outcome, and then slams Biden for the lack of transparency thus far in his case:
On Biden’s first day in office, his press secretary at the time, Jen Psaki, vowed that the new administration would bring “transparency and truth” back to the administration.
But the discovery of the classified documents in Biden’s private office and garage – and the administration’s refusal to answer key questions about them – is testing that transparency pledge.
The first batch of documents was discovered on Nov. 2 by Biden’s attorneys as they were cleaning out a private office he used in Washington prior to his presidential campaign. The White House, however, didn’t disclose the discovery until Monday – more than two months after they had been found. What’s more, the confirmation came only after CBS News reported the discovery.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre fielded a barrage of questions about the documents discovery during press briefings Wednesday and Thursday, but offered few new details.
How about the Washington Post, Democrats’ faithful Beltway mouthpiece in most matters? The editorial board pitched in yesterday afternoon by insisting that the two cases are still “different,” but sounding at least slightly concerned about Biden’s lack of transparency. Their news section made a bigger point about that as well as Biden’s hypocrisy, but mostly because it will make it harder to attack Trump and Republicans:
More immediately, Biden’s possession of classified documents is likely to rob him of the unvarnished ability to criticize former president Donald Trump for his own handling of sensitive material — even if the cases, and the two presidents’ approach to them, have been notably different. …
Biden last fall was shown a photo of top secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Biden voiced disbelief during an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” about how something like that could happen — how anyone, in his words, “could be that irresponsible.”
It was two months after that, on Nov. 2, that his lawyers discovered a small batch of classified documents in one of Biden’s offices in Washington, a discovery that Biden said earlier this week “surprised” him. On Thursday, Biden and his lawyers disclosed that the second batch of classified documents was discovered in the president’s home in Wilmington.
The revelations, dribbling out throughout the week, began to reveal a picture whose legal significance is still murky but whose political ramifications seem clearer. For one thing, the matter could get at some of the self-proclaimed strengths — experience, competence and familiarity with the workings of national security — of a president who has often stressed how seriously he takes the country’s intelligence and diplomatic traditions.
Yes, that’s mainly a Republicans pounce!® frame, but it’s still making the point about Biden’s hypocrisy and his lack of candor. The New York Times does much the same, but again includes a couple of shots over Biden’s hypocrisy and lack of transparency — and even manages to connect a dot or two:
Mr. Biden, who excoriated Mr. Trump for being “irresponsible” with national secrets, now has to answer for his own team’s mishandling of sensitive papers. Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden so far as is known did not resist requests to return documents, and in fact his lawyers discovered them without being asked and promptly returned them. But the White House did not disclose the discovery to the public for two months, waiting until after the November midterm elections, before which it might have damaged Democrats.
As a new timetable outlined by Mr. Garland on Thursday made clear, even then the White House did not fully reveal the extent of the situation in its original statement. That statement, released on Monday, confirmed a news media report about a first batch of classified documents discovered at his think tank in November but made no mention of a second set found at his Delaware home in December.
Only on Thursday, three days after that initial statement, did the White House confirm news media reports about the second batch, which was found in the garage of Mr. Biden’s home in Wilmington, and a final document found nearby on Wednesday night.
It may not be an outright revolt, but it’s also not a full-out cover for Democrats either. That’s a bad sign for Democrats and especially Biden, assuming it continues. That may depend on whether even more documents turn up in this probe, and just how Hunter Biden’s business interests intersect with the classified info.
At least Democrats will always have The View, though:
Sunny Hostin defends Biden not being transparent about the docs because he was distracted by the holidays.
“You’re talking about Christmas Eve, Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, and then finally when they get back [they say something].”
She claims Trump kept docs in a gold toilet. pic.twitter.com/pWVNWeFjp5
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) January 13, 2023
The latest episode of The Ed Morrissey Show podcast is now up! Today’s show features:
- What a difference a week makes! Last week, Duane Patterson and I debated over whether the GOP was damaging itself in the House Speaker fight. This week, it’s Joe Biden torpedoing not just himself but the Democrats’ and DoJ’s attacks on Donald Trump.
- The media is trying to run interference for Biden, but they’re also getting burned over their gaslighting on the Biden administration’s short-lived call to ban gas stoves.
- Plus, Ellen DeGeneres wants us to know that Gaia is angry and taking it out on Montecito!