Accuracy in Media

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released documents that summarized her earnings as a private lawyer, spanning back to 1985, which documents highlighted her political shift from pro-Big Business to her current progressive politics. But media outlets failed to analyze the information Warren’s campaign put out in the documents.

Warren disclosed that she had earned $1.9 million in her private legal work spanning from 1985-2009 and listed some of her clients, such as tobacco company Phillip Morris International, chemical company Dow Corning, and plane manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft.

The documents highlighted Warren’s shift from her pro-Big Business legal work to her current political platform, which platform criticized companies and corporations alike for ignoring the needs of the working-class. However, the mainstream media’s response to Warren’s document dump and the implications of her shifting politics was favorable and without significant criticism.

ABC News claimed that the documents “buttress her brand of working-class advocacy,” despite evidence to the contrary. The outlet also admitted that at least one consumer advocate disagreed with its assessment of Warren’s legal work. The advocate, Sybil Goodrich, criticized Warren for her involvement in the Dow Corning case, which resulted in years of delayed settlement payments to victims and their families. If anything, ABC News’s phrasing of Warren’s “brand of working-class advocacy” was extremely misleading.

CBS News, when it summarized Warren’s legal work history, pivoted to blame Republicans for claiming Warren’s past does not match her current consumer advocacy efforts. CBS News referred to a 2012 Senate campaign ad, run by her opponent Scott Brown, which criticized Warren for working for corporations as a lawyer and then changing positions on representing corporations once it was convenient for political office.

The New York Times excused Warren’s cases as “relatively mundane cases that did not make headlines.” The newspaper also added a brief line about an analysis they conducted, where they found that Warren allegedly fought to “preserve the integrity of the bankruptcy system” and “merely advocating on behalf of clients.” The Times did not address anything related to Warren’s political flip-flops nor did it go into detail about specific cases that her campaign published.

The media shielded Warren from criticism instead of explaining the facts and the implications of the document dump. The most egregious offender in ignoring Warren’s legal work history was the New York Times, which dismissed many cases as “relatively mundane cases.” But ABC News and CBS News should not escape notice, either, as both news outlets attempted to mitigate any criticism of Warren’s legal work history.

It would have been fair if the mainstream media acknowledged the alleged hypocrisy on Warren’s part to work for corporations and then become an outspoken politician against corporations, but no such viewpoint was published.

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