Bozell & Graham Column: No Truth in Washington Post Advertising

One of the most interesting parts of the CNN Democrat 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 they promoted themselves 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 their website puts the lie to that. On the night after the debate, at the top of their website, their first “In the News” tag promoted the “news” subject of “Snowball fight.” That led straight to this clickbait 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 scourge the Post opposed in their commercial was “Hidden agendas,” and then “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, they gushed over the “whistleblower” fueling the Democrat 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 “said one source,” “according to an official,” “based on interviews with 17 sources familiar with the case,” etc., etc. Now with Ukraine it’s the same.

And the Post was one of the worst offenders. What anonymous staff member came up with that lie?

Still more. 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, 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. Their ad also 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 their coverage for two years, and which was entirely wrong. “Reckless” is an understatement. 

Just weeks ago, the Post rushed into print with the story that a young African American girl was 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 also should buy the Post to avoid “Intentional bias” and “one-sided news.” This needs a laugh track and “no comment” from us.

Finally, the Post rejects “Scare tactics.” It’s hard to forget in the summer of 2016, they made a “photo illustration” taking up half a newspaper page 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, they should just say: “You hate Trump? We hate Trump. Come to us for all the hot Trump-hating scoops. The Washington Post.”

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