Joan Walsh and the left’s double standard on reporting on presidents’ daughters

Joan Walsh and the left’s double standard on reporting on presidents’ daughters

Obama daughtersWhen the liberal media aren’t busy lecturing the conservative masses on civility and tolerance, they can often be found teaching journalistic ethics to right-leaning members of the fourth estate.

The recipient of this week’s lesson is Breitbart.com’s Matthew Boyle, who violated an unwritten rule of journalism on Monday by reporting the planned destination of the First Daughters’ spring break vacation.

The tag team of teachers who chastened Boyle for his indiscretion included Salon’s Joan Walsh, Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce, and Media Matters’ Zachary Pleat.

Pleat got the ball rolling within hours of Boyle’s leak. In a piece admirable for its restraint (especially when compared with the embarrassingly crass hit jobs by Pierce and Walsh that his article inspired), Pleat recalls a statement issued in March 2012 by Michelle Obama’s communications director, Kristina Schake. The statement, which came after Agence France-Presse and other news websites broke the story that Malia Obama was headed to Mexico, included this request:

[T]he White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest.

One can certainly appreciate the Obamas’ concerns for their daughters’ safety, though one has to be struck by their insouciance in sending their 14-year-old and (more worrisome still) 11-year-old off on an unaccompanied vacation, even in the protective hands of the Secret Service.

But I digress. Pierce’s piece, which cites Pleat’s article as the source, came next. It is reprinted below in its entirety, including its title.

What Is Wrong With These Morons?

By Charles P. Pierce at 4:15am

The folks at Media Matters catch the citizen-journalists residing in Breitbart’s Mausoleum For Otherwise Unemployables being somewhat lower than crocodile piss.

Breitbart.com writer Matt Boyle reported on the specific location where President Obama’s teenage daughters are vacationing for spring break, ignoring the decades-old journalistic tradition that media outlets should not report on a president’s minor children when they are not attending ‘official or semi-official events’ for privacy and security reasons.

What possible interest does this serve, except to titillate the dark and envious nether parts of Boyle’s 22 readers? (No link, because fk that pudgy little monster.) There is no possible news value to this. Sooner or later, the frolicks of what my pal Boehlert calls the “rightwing entertainment complex” are going to get someone killed.

No comment is required really save to note that this artful opinion piece — right down to the spiteful omission of a link back to the original source — could just as readily have been lifted from the comments section of a blog post, scribbled by a malcontent using the screen name “URmothersux4bottlcapz.” The only difference is that Pierce is fine appending his byline to it.

And Walsh is fine quoting it, first acknowledging that “Pierce put it better than” she can. (Note that she even quotes verbatim the parenthetical with the ad hominem “fk that pudgy little monster.”)

Walsh tosses out an ad hominem of her own, or at least makes an unfounded assumption, by ascribing Boyle’s motives in writing about the trip to racism.

An ironic footnote to the whole affair penned by another Breitbart writer indicates that Walsh violated her own journalistic ethics in 2001 by writing about the then-minor daughters of then-President George W. Bush after they were caught boozing in public. But there is no need ultimately to look beyond Walsh’s current body of work, which can’t be criticized for its journalistic standards because it doesn’t have any.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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