Accuracy in Media

The liberal commentariat went berserk after President Trump announced he would rescind an Obama-era program that shielded children of illegal immigrants from deportation.

It was bad economics, Paul Krugman wrote. It is “Donald Trump … saying in every way possible that power in America is white, straight and male and all else are targets,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeted.

“DACA decision highlights the chasm between Trump’s compassionate rhetoric and reality. Shorter: unmatched hypocrite,” wrote Jennifer Rubin, a self-described conservative columnist at the Washington Post.

But the straight news reports immediately after the president’s decision to wind down the program over the next two years were surprisingly subdued.

“Jeff Sessions announces DACA program to be rescinded,” wrote CBS News. “Trump ends DACA, but gives Congress window to save it,” wrote CNNPolitics. “Trump Ends DACA Program, No New Applications Accepted,” reported NBC News.

Moreover, the copy itself was measured, carefully noting the complexity of the issue, the consequences of not taking action and the timeline the administration established to give Congress an opportunity to act.

David Nakamura’s story in the Washington Post was also relatively evenhanded.

“The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that allows younger undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation, calling the program unconstitutional but offering a partial delay to give Congress a chance to address the issue,” Nakamura wrote.

The story quoted Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointing out former President Barack Obama had set the stage for this day when he “sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.”

It gave a fair hearing to the administration’s argument that nine states were prepared to file suit against the government tomorrow to force an end to the program and that the suit was likely to succeed, bringing an immediate end the program and chaos for participants.

“We chose the least disruptive option,” Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said, according to the Post.

Nakamura did not mention any opposition from immigration groups until the second half of his article. And even then, he barely skimmed over the matter before returning to point out the president was torn over the decision between wanting to address the illegality of the Obama immigration order and the fact that most of the people affected by it are law-abiding and employed.

The New York Times topped its coverage with a series of videos from DACA participants, who are often referred to as Dreamers. But its news story kept to the facts for several paragraphs before accusing Sessions of using “the aggrieved language of anti-immigrant activists who argue that undocumented people are lawbreakers who hurt native-born Americans by usurping their jobs and pushing down wages.”

Both the Times and Post pointed out that former President Obama had promised to speak out if President Trump ever rescinded DACA. And late in the afternoon, Obama stuck to his words, calling the president “cruel” for his decision.

But for the most part, the two leading liberal newspapers in the country devoted the copy in their news sections to delivering the news.

How did this happen? Why weren’t the stories shaped more forcefully against Trump, as they usually are? First, there was a lot of actual news to report and a long timeline before conditions on the ground will change.

New applications for DACA ended today. Those who thought they had six months to renew must now renew within 30 days. Those in the plan now could start losing their status and right to work in this country, but not until March 5, 2018.

Moreover, the administration said Dreamers whose status ran out would not be high priorities for deportation unless they were involved in gangs or other criminal activity. And the administration’s argument that the program would not withstand legal scrutiny, which would mean a judge could end the legal status of all 800,000 Dreamers with one bang of his gavel, seemed hard to overcome.

The media no doubt will find additional items they find objectionable within DACA. But for a day, at least, Trump announced a critical and controversial policy change, and because of the long timeline, his encouragement to Congress to solve the problem and the fact it probably would be overturned anyway, all the press could do – for the most part – was report the facts. 

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