While the media provide wall-to-wall coverage of Montana Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault on a reporter from the Guardian — while Republicans across Congress are being asked to condemn Gianforte — it’s worthwhile to remember that the media never hold Democrats to the same standard.
Way back in June 2010, North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge, a seven-term elected Democrat, was asked by a student reporter if he supported the “Obama agenda.” Etheridge promptly attempted to grab the reporter’s cell phone camera, then grab the reporter’s wrist, demanding, “Who are you! Tell me who you are… I have a right to know who you are!” One of the student’s friends, who caught the incident on camera, said, “We’re just here for a project.” When the student in Etheridge’s grip asked to be released, Etheridge instead grabbed him by the neck.
Here’s the footage:
Etheridge would go on to be defeated by Congresswoman Renee Ellmers in a very tight election. But the media never bothered to ask every Democrat in power about Etheridge’s behavior, or whether it ought to be condemned. The assumption was that Etheridge was acting on his own, that he had behaved badly, and that was that. In fact, Democrats rallied to Etheridge’s defense. Here’s Politico reporting at the time:
"Motives matter, and I think you can see who was behind this," said DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse just now. "This was a Republican party tracking operation. If it wasn't a party tracker or intern, why is the face blurred and why is the source hidden? You know if it had been a right wing blog, they'd identify themselves and they'd be booking this person on TV all day. Republicans know if they admit their involvement in this game of gotcha it will undermine their credibility. One minute this guy is interviewing a member of Congress on camera and the next a video is released with his face blurred out? If that doesn’t tell you this is a Republican Party hatchet job nothing will." A national Democratic Party official e-mailed around a set of talking points about an hour ago, under the subject heading, "Etheridge Gotcha Video Background."
Etheridge apologized, and the media let it go.
The assumption by the Left, however, is that Gianforte must be abandoned by the Republicans forthwith.
Now, I think there’s a good argument that voters ought to avoid pulling the lever for Gianforte. But they also should have been encouraged to do so with Etheridge by the same media drooling over Gianforte; Democrats should have been forced to answer questions about the incident. They weren’t. Which is one reason that so many Republicans think the media is unfair.