Why Did the Main Stream Media Tune Out the President’s Warning About Democracy?

President Biden made a bold and powerful speech in Philadelphia about the dangers our democracy faces due to Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it above (speech begins around 6.25, after music) and/or read it here.

I think it must have taken a lot to get this decent, almost congenitally bipartisan man to call out his former colleagues. He ran on uniting the country, and I’m sure he expected that the far-right fervor of those idolizing Trump would fade as the former guy turned to other wealth-seeking ventures.

Like so many, the President underestimated his predecessor’s perfidy and the hate-fueled fervor of the far-right miscreants he was inspiring.

I understand that Biden has been meeting periodically with historians to help him take a long view of current events. One of them, Michael Beschloss, said although they never offer him advice, they had expressed growing alarm that we were in a period approaching that of 1860, when President Lincoln knew the nation was on the brink of civil war, and 1940, when President Roosevelt faced a growing fascist movement.

So the President who said he decided to run after the Charlottesville, Virginia, torch-carrying white supremacists’ march–which led to the death of a demonstrator and then-President Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people on both sides”–decided it was time to once again level with the American people about “the soul of America.”

My favorite part of the speech was the President’s remark about the protestors whose bullhorn could be heard in the distance. “They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy,” he said, while poking fun at their manners.

Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for The Nation and a frequent media commentator, observed that this Biden throwaway line was the defining difference between him/the Democrats and Trump/his followers; the latter would chase the protesters away, or worse.

These are the portions of the speech I found most important:

“For a long time, we’ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it’s not.

“We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it–each and every one of us.

“Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans: We must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to destroying American democracy.

“We’re a big, complicated country. But democracy endures only if we, the people, respect the guardrails of the republic. Only if we, the people, accept the results of free and fair elections. Only if we, the people, see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences.

“Democracy begins and will be preserved in we, the people’s, habits of heart, in our character: optimism that is tested
yet endures, courage that digs deep when we need it, empathy that fuels democracy, the willingness to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans.”

“We can’t afford to leave anyone on the sidelines. We need everyone to do their part. So speak up. Speak out. Get engaged. Vote, vote, vote.

“And if we all do our duty — if we do our duty in 2022 and beyond, then ages still to come will say we — all of us here — we kept the faith. We preserved democracy. We heeded not our worst instincts but our better angels. And we proved that, for all its imperfections, America is still the beacon to the world, an ideal to be realized, a promise to be kept.”

It was, to my mind, the height of Presidential responsibility for Biden to step outside his conciliatory comfort zone and make this important speech.

Why, then, did the major networks fail to cover it? And why did CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Brianna Keilar essentially dismiss it as a “political speech”–one that was marred by the presence of Marines? Many have pointed out in response all the occasions when Trump draped himself in the trappings of the military, when George W. Bush spoke from an aircraft carrier onto which he’d flown a fighter jet, and on and on. The criticism was ahistorical and unworthy of the occasion.

Are the Big Bucks decision-makers at these networks afraid of backlash from the Big Bucks MAGA supporters?

Granted, it’s hard to separate the political elements of a speech made by the President as the midterm elections approach from the overarching need for the President to use his bully pulpit when those midterms could, indeed, wreak havoc on our democracy.

I felt he maneuvered through that thicket extremely well. It was important for him to speak not only of the dangers the MAGA elements clearly pose (who knows how many of our enemies are now privy to our carefully guarded secrets due to that immoral, heinous former President?), but also to point out how much the Democrats have accomplished to make life better for Americans in so many ways.

Pointedly, the legislation he mentioned had all been achieved with Republican support.

What do you think? Were the networks justified in refusing to surrender their ad dollars for the twenty-seven minutes it took the President of the United States to address the nation?

And do you have views about the speech you’d like to share?

Annie

64 thoughts on “Why Did the Main Stream Media Tune Out the President’s Warning About Democracy?

  1. Inspiring words of hope and optimism, a battle cry to keep working for democracy and the rule of law, encourage me to carry on. Why the television networks failed to carry this event live, I don’t know. I can’t help thinking back to the late Madeleine Albright’s warnings regarding the apparent rise of fascism in this country, and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s admonition that we may be on the brink of another civil war, split up among differing ideological lines, if not geographically. That would be physically impossible, I think, because the political attitudes and opinions are so mixed in — no, enmeshed in — the same mixing bowl of goop, like cake batter. I pray we don’t come to that. President Biden gives me hope.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The President gives me hope too, Jo. I hope the “mixing bowl of goop,” a fine phrase, is sufficiently enmeshing to help the vast majority of us rise to this challenge (to build on your cake batter simile!). Democracy is worth it—and we all deserve it! Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I was surprised last night to find that many of my readers had not seen the speech, but then this morning my jaw dropped to find that none of the major networks had even bothered to cover it, but instead played reruns and stupid game shows! This is unconscionable! They are letting this nation down by failing to keep us informed! I watched it on my laptop on PBS and wasn’t aware until later that ABC, NBC, and CBS didn’t even bother. How many of Trump’s speeches did they miss? Nary a one, if I’m correct! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    As for the speech itself, I felt that he set the perfect tone under the circumstances. He has tried unity, conciliation, but some are so stubbornly determined to turn this nation into an autocracy that they cannot even be bothered to try to come together for the good of the people. As the prez said, we are in a fight to preserve the democracy upon which this nation was founded. I’m glad to see him being a big tougher. And I did love the way he handled the hecklers!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin board and public relations firm for the ruling class-the people who run things. Those who decide what news you will or will not hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim of, those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn’t want you to know something, it won’t be on the news. Period. Or, at the very least, it will be slanted to suit them, and then rarely followed up.
      George Carlin
      IMHO The owner of a media outlet should have to live in the market served.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are correct and you make a good point. As they say in the industry, “If it bleeds, it leads”. I’m still incensed, though, for I don’t think they ever missed a single one of Trump’s bumbling speeches, and even today they give him more coverage than they give President Biden. But then, thankfully, I don’t rely on the television media for my news. And I agree with your closing assessment!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is indeed, infuriating. And it’s not just TV news. Now that The NY Times and Washington Post seem more determined to showcase their “fair and balanced” bona fides, I find myself astonished by some of the wacky essays they run by people from far right so-called “think tanks.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I fully agree … WaPo and NYT were once my main sources of news, but I find them to be more biased than before these days, so I seek my news from a much broader base these days. I guess that old adage “If it bleeds, it leads” is still true!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. And yet the “liberal/socialist/communist” media are a favorite target of the far right. Still, there are notable exceptions: I remind myself of a slogan from the years I was active in the American Society of Journalists and Authors: “Media: noun (plural).”

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    2. I’ve written before about the press’s failure to appreciate that this is a pivotal time for our democracy, and they don’t seem to realize the way they’ve been covering events for much of their careers just doesn’t cut it in this era of “fake news,” the Big Lie, and one major political party’s surrender to fascism. I probably should have linked to it, as I think it’s relevant here. So…

      https://annieasksyou.com/2021/12/13/are-members-of-the-media-serving-as-accessories-to-the-murder-of-democracy/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Big money bought all the “media” long ago and the price of paper will kill the rest. Most of these actors have never seen an independent 1st estate. Their existence has always been within the Costanza bubble: “It’s not a lie if you believe it”.

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      1. I listened to that entire wacky report, DougD. Scary/sad—once again pathetic people being misled and giving away their hard-earned money to a cult. I did appreciate the “Queen’s” group’s effort to arrest the police: “Please open this door so we can arrest you.”

        As we saw on Jan 6, American cultists are not so polite!

        Thanks; always good to hear from our friends in Canada and elsewhere—a valuable aspect of blogging!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s frustrating that media coverage of Biden’s achievements is often overshadowed by coverage of Trump’s pernicious acts. The most recent example, of course, is how coverage if the landmark Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 was eclipsed by banner headlines about the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago digs. If Trump is ultimately indicted for one or more of his crimes, the banner headlines will rile up—and probably further solidify—his base. But here’s hoping that the indictment happens, and even if Trump doesn’t wind up in the hoosegow, he is forbidden from running for office again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gail. That’s a discussion we’ve had in this household—both the overshadowing of the really extraordinary IRA legislation by the search of Mar-a-Lago (now spreading to multiple states)—and the need for an indictment despite likely upheaval. Sure would like to see him “in the hoosegow,” however.

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    1. Seventy one EMPTY folders for state secrets. Joe Biden is not the one hiding in his bunker surrounded on all sides by enemies. He’s standing in front of Independence Hall gathering the defenders of democracy. I’d look around, your team ain’t Notre Dame and they’re about to meet the Buckeyes. Grant was an Ohio boy. I’m with Grant, but I’m partial to winners.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nonsense. I guess you missed the white and blue portions of the lighting. It was the good ole USA, which he and a majority of Americans are trying to prevent from being overtaken by the autocrats, such as the former President who has acknowledged stealing highly classified information.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, but I only stole them first! I swear those folders were stuffed full before the FBI showed up! No one has ever faced such persecution! And I want my crown of thorns back right now! Netanyahu gave that to ME!
        claims Cheeto Mussolini

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  4. I think the main networks didn’t run his speech because they know that most people aren’t watching their programs anyway. They’re watching stuff on Netflix & Amazon Prime & Hulu & Disney. If they want to see the president’s speech, they can catch it on YouTube later on. This is the real world we live in now. Watching a president’s speech on network TV is so twentieth century.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Network television was born one month before myself.
      I was thinking of a defense but Chief Dan George kept mumbling “endeavor to persevere” so I decided to declare war on the union.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I felt it was a great speech that EVERYONE needs to hear. My favorite line was, “Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election… they either win or they were cheated.”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Honestly I didn’t realize the speech didn’t get that much coverage. I saw highlights of it on CNN but did not listen to the analysis. Personally I thought he was right to speak out as forcefully as he did – there’s a lot at stake.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Joni; as I know you depend on CNN for your news of the US, I’ll be interested in hearing if you notice a difference in their coverage.

      Did you see the link DougD forwarded about your homegrown QAnons?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As I didn’t listen to the analysis that night I’m not sure what they said. No I didn’t see the link – is it in your post? If not could you point me to it. I know Doug is Canadian. We have our crazies too – some of those people who organized the Ottawa protest have been arrested.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. No, never heard of her, nor have I seen any reference to her in mainstream news, but she doesn’t seem sane. I don’t think it’s connected to the bunch from Ottawa, some of the ringleaders were on trial I think, but honestly Annie I didn’t read the whole article about them. I can go back and see if I can find it. The Ottawa protest has just kind of faded away…..

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Annie, I think it was in the local newspaper as I’ve been getting my news online and via paper recently. I’ve been boycotting the National TV news here since Lisa Laflemme got fired, as a sign of solidarity. I always watched her on The National at night, but she was a reporter before that for years, there was nothing controversial about her. The National would give a half hour recap of Canadian news plus international. She had worked at CTV for 35 years. There is much speculation that she was let go because of her age and letting her hair go gray – 58yr, whereas they let Lloyd Robertson the previous nightly anchor stay on until he was 77. There has been a lot of backlash, and I see tonight that the Bell Media CEO has now taken a LOA. Here’s a link to the article if you are interested. https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/open-letter-to-bell-says-laflamme-ousting-shows-sexism-ageism-women-face-at-work-1.6045084://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/open-letter-to-bell-says-laflamme-ousting-shows-sexism-ageism-women-face-at-work-1.6045084

        I did read somewhere that one of the more outspoken weekend hosts at CNN Brian Smelter got let go, and then there was the Chris Cumo controversy. My impression is that CNN is trying to take a more moderate, less extreme POV, or I read a statement somewhere online to that effect.

        I’ve been having difficulty keeping up with the news, and the blog and everything lately, as my mother is 96 now and needing more care. She’s still in her own home though, and I’d like to keep her there, but it seems my days are way too full.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. A bit, but things are not turning out as well as her eyesight is not as good. She still works on her jigsaw puzzles though. She needs help with her med and meals now as her memory has gotten poor. I’m lucky she did so well until she was 95! I saw Katie Courtic has posted on twitter re Lisa LaFlemme. I thought she looked great with grey hair. It must have been a shock to be treated that way after so many years. I guess they didn’t expect all that backlash.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Good for the backlash!

        Please tell your mom how much I enjoy her artwork. My empathy for you both. Though my parents didn’t reach her age (one grandparent did), caregiving is hard for giver and recipient.

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      6. Annie, I see tonight that there were multiple stabbings here in the province of Sask…..13 crime scenes…..10 dead, multiple injured….reminds me of Nova Scotia a few years ago, but this time on a reserve. Our small town police departments are not used to dealing with that kind of crime.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. They haven’t got them yet, and now think they might be in a different province. That the thing about western Canada – so many miles to search, much of it uninhabited.

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      1. Because you need read but one of his writings to make you get up and ride. I remember reading him as a boy telling tales of ranching in the Dakotas. We hunted cattle rustlers for weeks.
        Fitting he was President at 42. You never hear stories about him urging others into adventure, he (could be myth) he is always at the lead. We could use a reasonable facsimile at the moment. I fear that the iron-men have sailed with the wooden ships.

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  7. Thanks again, Annie! Sorry I’m responding to this one late. I don’t know about the mainstream media, but I did see the speech, and thought it was excellent. Very glad that Joe Biden has “found his voice”, and speaking up about the danger of Trump and his MAGA mob!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I saw it, and it was a great speech. Agree that it didn’t get the respect it deserved. That’s partly on the media but maybe partly on our president, as well. I am deeply grateful for our president, but an effective speaker he is not. No Kennedy here, no Obama, not the loudest or most persuasive in the room. Given his age and tone, I am hearing more the scolding dad, appropriately weary of all this crap, rather than a fierce leader, fierce being what’s needed in this age of MAGA. But yes, I agree. He deserves far more respect and coverage than he’s getting,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Didn’t MSNBC run it? I thought I watched the entire thing but maybe it was just excerpts. Yes, the major networks should run the president’s speech. It’s better journalism to do so rather than cutting and pasting those segments that they selectively deem worthy of viewers’ attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. MSNBC did, but mainstream media generally means the networks. Someone pointed out today that they all carried King Charles’s speech—but ignored President Biden’s warnings about democracy.

      I think it’s a combination of financial pressures and a lack of understanding that journalism must adapt to the fact that one party is not behaving according to democratic norms. Even-handedness just doesn’t serve us in view of the threats we face.

      Liked by 1 person

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