It was a small victory in the battle against false equivalency in the media: pundits Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann were on a Sunday morning talk show.
That may not sound like a big deal—after all, Ornstein used to be a Beltway media fixture, and he and Mann have for years been among the “most quotable” sources for media on the Hill. But last weekend CNN’s Reliable Sources became the first mainstream Sunday news program the two have appeared on since their op-ed “Let’s Admit It: The Republicans Are to Blame” was published nine months ago in The Wash Post. Their crime? They “came out” from years of straight-down-the-middle political opining to point out that not only are Republicans threatening the economy and democracy itself, but the mainstream media enable them by refusing to notice.
Despite hoots and hollers from the sidelines, the MSM continue to pretend that the GOP emperor wears the finest of clothes, even as his parade of reality-denying, gun-toting, hostage-taking supporters do a striptease for the nation every filibusterin’ day. In the name of “balance” (and keeping advertisers), the media blame the country’s problems on a generic “Congress” or “Washington.” Or they cry, as Ornstein and Mann write, “’Both sides do it’ or ‘There is plenty of blame to go around,’ ” mantras that “are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias.”
After their op-ed and the book it’s adapted from, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, came out in April, Ornstein (of the conservative American Enterprise Institute) and Mann (of the centrist Brookings Institution) went missing from Big Media.
“It’s hard to exaggerate just how popular Mann and Ornstein were with the press before their apostasy,” Dan Froomkin writes in the Huffington Post. “They were quite possibly the two most quotable men in Washington.”
But quoting them on how the media creates symmetry where there is none hits a little too close to home. “We know from some of the most prominent journalists in America that [false equivalency] is a main point of contention,” Ornstein told me by phone. “And to have radio silence” after the book came out means it “clearly touched a nerve.”