It’s not enough to report, as CNN did, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “walked by reporters in the Senate hallways Monday without responding to a question about Trump’s actions or if he considers Biden to be the President-elect.” And when Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) refuses to call President-elect Joe Biden “president-elect,” or Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) says it does not matter if they call Biden president-elect, or Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) insists there are still viable legal avenues to explore (after reportedly urging the Georgia secretary of state to throw out legal ballots), the media must do more than transcribe their disingenuous remarks.
The correct question for all of the Republicans is: You know perfectly well that Biden won and that Trump’s legal claims have been dismissed, so why are you delegitimizing an election?
When Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tries to avoid recognizing the will of the voters (as he told CNN: “If your question is should we be criticizing him, then I think what you’re getting at is that the President has every right to present his case in every court that he wants to go to and has every right to be heard. And I think we are going to have to look at the effect of mail-in balloting.”), it is incumbent on the media to push back. There is no evidence of fraud. The claims have been dismissed. Refusing to acknowledge the results is anti-democratic and anti-American. Hawley, an Ivy League-educated senator, plainly knows better, so why allow him to pretend the election outcome is in doubt?
The media must stop indulging in the fantasy that Republicans believe the excuses and lies they spout (e.g., that legal claims are still pending). In adopting the pretense that Republicans are responding in good faith, the media help legitimize the views (“Well, even the senators say …”) and allow them to escape accountability for their unacceptable refusal to uphold the sanctity of elections.
The same phenomenon is at work when Republicans offer disingenuous excuses to oppose entirely qualified, mainstream nominees. If Sen. Rob. Portman (R-Ohio) says he will not commit to giving a hearing to Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for the Office of Management and Budget, because of her partisan tweets, reporters have a responsibility to push back. You spent four years ignoring far more incendiary tweets from Trump, so what’s your real beef? Accepting Portman’s premise without raising Trump’s countless racist, blatantly false and malicious tweets simply enables Republicans to lie to the public. It also ignores the heart of the issue: Why does a conservative senator who held positions of responsibility in the executive branch feel compelled to recycle specious arguments to defeat a woman of color? Why must he kowtow to the MAGA crowd?
The media still pretend that Republican politicians answer questions in good faith when, in fact, they are simply continuing the pattern of sniveling obsequiousness to the MAGA cult leader. Unless they press these politicians to answer for their conduct, the media are simply turning over their platforms to propagandists — again.