Accuracy in Media

Continuing on a consistent mainstream media theme, there are few reports about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his past policy positions, quotes, statements, and political maneuvers as a longtime public servant. NBC News published a political analysis on Sanders’ campaign strategy going forward and whether it was inevitable that Sanders would have to win “ugly” to earn the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination, but it did not mention anything about Sanders’ past.

The NBC News analysis was headlined, “Is winning ugly enough for Bernie Sanders?” Despite interviewing one political surrogate and Sanders’ campaign manager, NBC News never addressed Sanders’ past as a politician and how that could affect his campaign’s goal to win the party nomination.

Instead, the analysis detailed Sanders’ campaign strategy of getting past Super Tuesday primaries and whose goal is to face off against billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. NBC News pointed out that Democratic Party primary voters are turning to other candidates for more moderate political positions and policy proposals and are avoiding Sanders. But the news outlet failed to elaborate why primary voters perceive Sanders harbors extreme positions.

NBC News’ analysis, for example, said that Sanders “has shown little ability to attract support from other corners of the party. Voters who back faltering candidates appear to be shifting significantly between contenders — but not shifting to Sanders.” The news outlet should have answered the question of why Sanders does not attract voters from other wings of the party, which could range from Sanders’ support for Medicare-for-All to his proposal to forgive student loan debt to his opposition to American intervention in foreign affairs and conflicts.

Sanders has a long history of public service. He first won public office as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981 and has been in public service since then. He won Vermont’s at-large congressional seat in 1990, and in 2006, won his election to become one of Vermont’s U.S. Senators. In total, that is 39 years of public service, including public statements, press releases, interviews, floor speeches, campaign statements, and the like.

Here are some examples of Sanders’ past that NBC News and the media could have highlighted, but chose not to:

  • While running for election in 1980 and 1984, Sanders campaigned for the Socialist Workers Party.
  • Sanders “proudly endorsed and supported” the group’s presidential candidate at the time, Andrew Pulley, and said in a press release, “I fully support the SWP’s continued defense of the Cuban revolution.”
  • In 1984, Sanders defended the Cuban regime under Fidel Castro and said, “Everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world…They forgot that he educated…kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.” He did not disavow his comments, though he agreed that the Castro regime was a brutal government regime.
  • During the 1970s, Sanders wanted to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), reduce the military and revert back to local militias.
  • He proposed a decrease in spending cuts of 50 percent in the Pentagon’s budget.
  • He floated the idea of primarying Barack Obama, the incumbent president, in 2011.

The media could also report that Sanders reversed his previous promise to release his medical records. The media buried that story despite Sanders’ promise that he would release them to the public.

NBC News chose not to report Sanders’ past and pivoted to the talking point that Sanders’ lack of support could spell trouble for his campaign in the near future. It was a glaring omission of the facts and was a disservice to the American public and potential voters alike.

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