One of the most interesting parts of the CNN Democratic debate this week had nothing to do with the debates. It came during a commercial break. The Washington Post bought commercial time — which isn't shocking, since the Democrats are the paper's natural subscriber base. It's how The Post promoted itself that was truly jaw-dropping.
The ad resembles a computer screen with a cursor floating over a button that reads, "Unsubscribe." It starts with the phrase "Clickbait as news." Is that true? The Post abhors clickbait?
Two minutes on the paper's website puts the lie to that. The night after the debate, the first "In the News" tag at the top of the website promoted the "news" subject of "snowball fight." That clickbait led straight to this headline: "A 68-year-old got hit with a snowball. He retaliated by beating a 9-year-old unconscious, police say."
There was more.
The next scourges The Post opposed in the commercial were "Hidden agendas" and "Unverified sources." But The Post thrives on hiding the agendas of anonymous sources, whose identities feel unverified to the reader. In 2017, The Post published an article gleefully titled "Anonymous sources are absolutely killing Trump's presidency." Two weeks ago, the paper gushed over the "whistleblower" fueling the Democratic impeachment effort, under the headline "Someone blew a whistle. It's now the hottest tune in D.C."
Virtually the entire false narrative of Russian collusion with Trump was based on statements like "said one source," "according to an official," "based on interviews with 17 sources familiar with the case" etc., etc. Now it's the same with the narrative on Trump and Ukraine.
And The Post is one of the worst offenders. What anonymous staff member came up with that lie?
Still, there's more to the ad. The Post also claims to be in staunch opposition to "The outrage cycle" and "Purposefully polarizing narratives." But whether it's the "news" pages or the editorials, the outrage at Trump and polarization over Trump are never-ending. Even in times when unity should occur — take the funeral of George H.W. Bush — The Post was polarizing, running a front-page "news" update headlined, "Trump sits with fellow presidents but still stands alone." Reporter Philip Rucker snarkily described former presidents and first ladies in the front row ... by reminding everyone how Trump had insulted them over the years.
Still more. The ad claims you should subscribe to The Post to avoid "Reckless reporting" and "Misinformation." Holy smokes. We won't bother to cite the endless stream of recklessness. We will only point to the entirety of the Russia collusion story that dominated The Post's coverage for two years and was entirely wrong. "Reckless" is an understatement.
Just weeks ago, The Post rushed to print a story about a young African American girl who was allegedly savagely bullied by white boys at a Northern Virginia private Christian school where Karen Pence teaches. ... And then the girl admitted the attack never happened. She made it up.
It grew worse. You should also buy The Post to avoid "Intentional bias" and "One-sided news," the ad said. This needs a laugh track and "no comment" from us.
Finally , The Post rejects "scare tactics." It's hard to forget that in the summer of 2016, it made a half-page "photo illustration" of a nuclear mushroom cloud inside Trump's head — with the headline "Anger management." He'd get us all nuked!
If The Post is really trying to attract new online subscribers during a Democrat debate on the Collusion News Network, it should just say: "You hate Trump? We hate Trump. Come to us for all the hot Trump-hating scoop. The Washington Post."
(L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.)