Accuracy in Media

During a seven-hour-long townhall event, ten of the Democratic Party presidential candidates went on CNN to discuss the issue of climate change and what they would do to combat climate change. Joe Biden was one of the ten participating candidates and was the fifth candidate to make his stump speech during the townhall event.

Anderson Cooper interviewed Biden at the 8 p.m. time slot, which is considered a prime-time television slot where television ratings are concerned. Biden said that he trusted “science over fantasy,” a broadside to climate change skeptics, and defended his former boss, former president Barack Obama, for focusing on healthcare reform rather than climate change.

But over the course of his remarks, it appeared that a blood vessel burst in one of Biden’s eyes, which concerned some viewers who were watching the event. Biden is 76 years old and is the oldest candidate in the field, and this alleged incident spurred questions surrounding Biden’s health.

Yet, the mainstream media ignored the burst blood vessel incident during a live event. A search of mainstream media outlets, including CNN’s website, led to zero search results on the incident. CNN’s write-up of the townhall did not mention the burst blood vessel incident, and instead said the following:

What he [Biden] said:

The former vice president vowed to lead the world, not just America, in the fight against climate change, leveraging his decades of experience striding the global stage.

In keeping with his campaign theme that he can oust Trump and restore American values and leadership, Biden said it was time to again trust “science over fantasy” and he defended his old boss Barack Obama, who chose to rescue the economy and pursue health care restructuring with political capital that was drained when he wanted to fight climate change. Biden insisted his plans were “aggressive enough” in comparison with those of other candidates.

The takeaway:

This was Biden’s campaign in microcosm. He made a passionate case that only he has the leadership skills and global network to be president and argued he’d been fighting liberal causes for decades. But his half a century in politics triggered sharp scrutiny of his record. He rejected the idea that his age and establishment prominence meant he sided with corporations over the powerless and estranged him from modern Democrats.

“Plans are great. Executing their plans is a very different thing,” Biden said, in an apparent swipe at the idealism of some of his rivals. “You still have to get the rest of the world to come along. … I know almost every one of those world leaders.”

But his appearance also underlined there are threats to his candidacy — like the complications of a long political record and his age — that he simply cannot do anything about.

By contrast, conservative media outlets such as Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Fox News published articles analyzing the incident. The Washington Examiner noted that a burst blood vessel in an eye is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage, which can be traced to “high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, blood thinners, or even excessive straining” as root causes. The same news outlet also mentioned how Biden has had a history of health issues, which includes issues such as an aneurysm in 1988, a removed benign polyp during a 1996 colonoscopy, and an irregular heartbeat in 2008. Fox News’s article was more tempered in its wording about the incident, while acknowledging Biden’s past health issues.

Even though the incident may not be a significant health concern, the media blackout over the burst blood vessel in Biden’s eye should have garnered more attention than it did, considering Biden’s age and recent public gaffes on the campaign trail. Similar to 2016 campaign coverage of Hillary Clinton’s health, the mainstream media is not reporting on potential health issues facing Democratic Party candidates.

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