Accuracy in Media

Once the media darling early in the 2020 presidential primaries, former vice president Joe Biden faces the brunt of the media’s ire after two disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. The media noted Biden’s decision to leave New Hampshire and make a campaign stop in South Carolina before New Hampshire’s primary results were finalized.

But the media did not criticize his decision to do so, although the decision presented bad optics for his campaign.

Biden decided that he would not attend a New Hampshire campaign party on the night of the primary election and flew to South Carolina. Although Biden did appear on-screen, through a video call from South Carolina, the media wrote about the bad optics of Biden skipping town before primary results were announced.

BuzzFeed News attended Biden’s New Hampshire party, which at its peak had about 150 attendees by its own count. The outlet said that while staffers and volunteers were present, “Joe Biden was elsewhere” on primary night. Biden’s party “was in stark contrast to Biden’s Iowa party, which was buzzing with senior staff, surrogates, and volunteers.” In a veiled shot at Biden, BuzzFeed News wrote, “On Tuesday morning, less than a week after telling voters in Somersworth, New Hampshire, that he was “counting on” their state and several hours before his own primary night party began, Biden announced that he was leaving for South Carolina.” If anything, BuzzFeed News’s article was most critical of Biden’s decision, but it did not directly criticize the former vice president.

CNN, in its New Hampshire primary analysis, also pointed out Biden’s decision to leave New Hampshire for South Carolina. The cable news network said, “The Granite State became another stumbling block for both Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, who made the telling decision to abruptly abandon his election night party in favor of heading to South Carolina.” Although there could be some veiled criticism, it was a far cry from directly criticizing Biden’s decision.

NBC News added, “Aware of a poor showing, Biden had already left New Hampshire for South Carolina, the site of the next primary.” NBC’s take was tepid compared to BuzzFeed News and CNN and did not offer the reader much insight into the 2020 campaign.

The media criticized Biden’s electability argument after his poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. However, after Biden left New Hampshire for South Carolina, the media did not criticize Biden’s decision nor did it explain how the bad optics could negatively affect his campaign. If the media wants readers and viewers to believe it is impartial, it should criticize all candidates regardless of party affiliation.

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