Accuracy in Media

With former vice president Joe Biden’s primary win in South Carolina over the weekend, the mainstream media focused on how Biden’s win could affect the 2020 Democratic Party primary. But the media missed the opportunity to continue its reporting about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his past statements, political stances, and controversies.

Sanders’ campaign rhetoric includes fighting for the middle-class and condemning cronyism by establishment politicians and special interest groups. But, at least three incidents in his past allegedly portray him and his wife Jane Sanders as beneficiaries of cronyism.

One of the main criticisms about Sanders’ past is that he and his wife, Jane Sanders, benefited from cronyism. In Sanders’ case, opponents use cronyism in the context of receiving improper benefits due to Sanders’ standing as one of Vermont’s U.S. Senators.

An example of alleged cronyism was Jane Sanders’ exit from Burlington College.

She was the college’s president until a series of poor decisions led to her exit. She resigned in 2011 after negotiating a land deal that sank the college into significant debt.

Five years later, the college shut down and closed its doors. But Sanders’ opponents claimed that she received a $200,000 “golden parachute” from Burlington College after allegedly committing loan fraud while serving as college president. The alleged loan fraud stemmed from the land deal that she facilitated, in which she allegedly overstated the “amount of donations she had in hand so that she could secure the bank loan used to buy the property.”

A “golden parachute” is “a generous severance agreement for a corporate executive in the event of a sudden dismissal,” per Merriam-Webster. Sanders criticized “golden parachutes” in the private sector, but did not say anything about his wife’s $200,000 severance from Burlington College.

Jane Sanders was also involved in another alleged cronyism incident while she served on the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA). Prior to her appointment, her husband pushed the federal government to fund VEDA with a government grant. Critics pointed out that Jane Sanders’ appointment to VEDA’s board may have been an attempt to curry favor with Sen. Sanders and the federal government. Later, VEDA received a $1 million grant from a relending program run by the U.S. Drug Administration.

Also, when Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the local newspaper, Burlington Free Press, noted that Sanders staffed City Hall “with several of his friends” despite Sanders’ campaign pledge to end cronyism in Burlington’s City Hall.

These are three examples of alleged cronyism involving Sen. Sanders and his wife Jane, but the media has not reported on these allegations in the 2020 presidential campaign cycle. Instead, the media focuses on the primary results and is not telling the entire story about Sanders’ career and past.

So far, the media has failed to correct Sanders’ claim that Cuban literacy rates improved under Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro. It also neglected to cover a Cuban newspaper “prominently displaying” Sanders’ praise of Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro,  as well as failing to report on the estimated costs of some of his policy proposals, such as “Medicare for All.”

The media should elevate their performance, which has been subpar due to missing relevant and timely information in the past several months. It has missed out on multiple opportunities to correct Sanders and provide as much information as possible about Sanders’ candidacy.

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