“To many,” Coppins acknowledges, “this populist posture will reek of phoniness.”
To me it is plainly phony. And if you doubt that, I invite you to consider what Carlson had to say upon hearing the story about Kellyanne Conway lying to the public:
His critics in the media often say that Donald Trump is diminishing the American presidency … But it is also true that in covering Trump the way they have, many journalists and have degraded and humiliated themselves.
There are countless example, but watch this one…
I have no idea if Kellyanne Conway ever said anything like that, but I do know TV anchors almost never reveal what their guests say off camera. And for good reason. People come to TV studios so they can speak on TV.
They do not come with the expectation that their private conversations will wind up broadcast to the country, especially when they’re not present to defend themselves. In more than 20 years working in TV, I have never seen that happen. And trust me, I’ve heard a lot of weird things uttered off the air. Television networks don’t have hidden cameras in their bathrooms for the same reason. Even in media there is a zone of privacy, those are the rules. At least they used to be, that was before NBC video taped Donald Trump without his knowledge and then leaked that tape 11 years later to the Washington Post in an effort to destroy his presidential campaign.
So under the old rules that Carlson extols, a paid political operative could lie to millions of Americans on TV news, then confide to the news anchors that she felt disgusted by her own lies, and the journalists would hide the fact of the deception, adhering to an unwritten code that protects the elites who host and appear on television.
But now, a famous Beltway journalist has violated this pact of elites by telling the American public what is ostensibly the truth rather than protecting a highly paid political operative’s lies. If that’s what has happened, Carlson believes that by telling the public what really went on behind the scenes, the truth-teller degraded and humiliated herself, violating that purportedly sacred zone of privacy, the cable-TV studio.
The journalism business presents many tough questions about what information can be ethically reported or withheld. I would never claim to have perfect insight or judgment about them. What’s more, there is nothing wrong with comity among journalists and sources, or different standards depending on the setting in which an interaction takes place, or even an informal rule in journalistic broadcasting that “on-the-air” is on the record and most matters uttered afterward are treated as “off-the-record.” It would be bad form to play gotcha with an off-air joke or off-topic aside. (And no, there shouldn’t be bathroom cameras, though not “for the same reason.”)