Back in 2013, president Barack Obama nominated a 42-year-old former journalist for one of the top diplomatic posts in the federal government, ambassador to the United Nations. There was an immediate outcry from the media, which questioned her qualifications.
Just kidding. That never happened. But it is happening now, as President Trump nominates a 48-year-old former journalist to the very same post.
In 2013, Obama nominated Samantha Powers for the U.N. post. Powers had begun her illustrious career as a war correspondent for four years, covering the Yugoslav Wars for U.S. News & World Report and the Boston Globe, among other publications. She went on to become director of a human rights center at Harvard, but also continued as a columnist for Time magazine.
She joined the Obama campaign in 2008, but was quickly forced to resign after she called Hillary Clinton a “monster” who was “stooping to anything” to win.
But after Powers’ nomination to the U.N. position, powerful Republicans like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, along with independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, backed her, and she was confirmed by a Senate vote of 87-10. She served in the position for more than three years and was succeeded by Trump’s appointment, Nikki Haley, who is stepping down at the end of this year.
Fast forward to today. Trump has nominated as Haley’s replacement Heather Nauert, a former Fox News journalist. Nauert worked in journalism for 20 years but also served as a government affairs consultant on issues including health insurance, Social Security and taxes and was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In April 2017, the United States Department of State announced that Nauert would become the new department’s spokesman. This past March, she was named Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. And on Thursday, Trump nominated her for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
CNN immediately called into doubt Nauert’s skills. In a section of a news piece titled “Qualifications questioned,” CNN cited a “senior diplomat” who said, “This is extraordinary. Especially in the footsteps of the former ambassadors: Madeleine Albright, Susan Rice.”
The Washington Post quoted career presidential aide David Gergen, who said, “In terms of what we normally look for at the United Nations, her résumé is very thin.”
But that’s not all the MSM was moaning about. Many liberal news outlets criticized the Trump administration for employing former journalists, including a few from Fox News.
In another Washington Post piece headlined “The Foxification of the Trump White House, visualized,” the liberal paper complained about the “remarkable bit of interplay between the administration and the network that is also the only one Trump has praised regularly since taking office …”
Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who served under George W. Bush, noted the irony. “More than 26 reporters went into the Obama Administration. I guess that was fine with the press back then, but not now,” he wrote on Twitter.
We couldn’t find the 26 Fleischer cited, but a 2013 story in The Atlantic listed 24 journalists who joined the Obama administration. Some took public communications roles, like former Time writer Jay Carney, who served as Obama’s second spokesman. But others joined on for policy roles, like:
- Boston Globe online politics editor Glen Johnson, who worked for Secretary of State John Kerry as a senior adviser.
- Rosa Brooks, an author who was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, became a counselor to Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy.
- CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto worked as chief of staff for U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke.
Erik Wemple, a Washington Post reporter, responded to Fleischer’s tweet: “All right: Were they from the same cable-news network — the same cable-news network that the president watches for hours and hours each day, and gets bogus information from?”
But Fleischer got the last zing in, responding: “No, silly. Barack Obama had his pick of reporters from every network, newspaper and magazine. They almost all fell for him, and those who didn’t join his Administration loved him and gave him soft coverage for 8 years.”