Dear Marco Rubio: Shut the Fuck Up About "the Media" Already

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Last night, journalists at the Annapolis Capital Gazette put out a damn newspaper a few hours after a gunman stormed their newsroom and murdered five of their colleagues. It was an act of brave defiance that stood in eloquent contrast to President Trump's repeated claims that journalists are "enemies of the people."

Sen. Marco Rubio has yet to utter a word about that violent assault on the free press or the heroism of the journalists who reported on their friends and co-workers' deaths. But he did have time this morning to get upset about profanity in the news.
That's a tough question to answer, Marco, but here at New Times, we're making the decision to ask you, in all sincerity, to shut the fuck up about "the media" already.

That's because even before the unspeakable tragedy in Maryland, Rubio spent most of this week on an ignorant Twitter rant against the press. He apparently has little better grasp of how journalism works in America than your uncle who spends his free time between InfoWars binges posting George Soros memes on Facebook.

Rubio's screed against the free press began Monday, following a New York Times report that sought to understand how Trump could poll above 90 percent among Republicans even as he ordered children separated from their parents and thrown into cages. The Times found, as usual, that it's because GOP voters are willing to embrace almost any depravity as long as they can own the libs.

"I’m not only one who realizes that many Republicans who don’t agree with everything Trump does are moved to support him because they feel he is often unfairly attacked," tweeted Rubio, a man who very recently called Trump a "con-man" and suggested he had a small penis during a national campaign event.

By midweek, a brief story in Axios spurred Rubio to jump back into the fray. The story reported on a SurveyMonkey poll showing that 92 percent of Republicans believe the press "knowingly reports false or misleading stories."

Those 92 percent of GOP supporters are, quite simply, incorrect. The "traditional media" gets things wrong all the time; human beings make mistakes. They don't, however, "knowingly" print false news. Journalists are fired immediately if they do so. Defamation law doesn't protect outlets that knowingly print false information.

But a vast majority of Republican voters believes otherwise because their party leaders have lied to them about this point for decades. Rubio could take a stand against Trump's relentless attacks on the free press. He could note that journalists aren't enemies but people who generally do a tough job for little pay because they believe it matters.

Instead, though, Rubio decided the survey didn't show an institutional rot within the GOP but rather a problem with journalism. "GOP voters defend Trump when attacked by media, OFTEN DESPITE NOT LIKING WHAT HE DID OR SAID, because they view media as unfair & biased," he tweeted.

Then Rubio went full-on angry grandpa on Facebook:
Who are "the media" and the "journalists" Rubio is talking about here? Does he understand the difference between opinion columnists and news reporters? Is he thinking of talking heads on cable news or random angry people yelling on Twitter?

Just to be clear, since you're obviously easily confused on this point, the words you're reading now are a column, Marco. But opinion columns like this are still based on reported facts.

To take his inane point far more seriously than it deserves, scholarly research on the two campaigns he cited don't back up his complaints. When the Pew Research Center studied thousands of campaign stories in the 2012 cycle, it found Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were covered fairly equally:
With horse-race stories removed, 15% of campaign stories about Obama were positive, 32% were negative and 53% were mixed. For Romney it was 14% positive, 32% negative and 55% mixed
A similar analysis of the 2008 race found that Obama did have an edge on John McCain in positive news stories, but as the report noted, McCain was trying to defend the GOP's handling of the economy in the wake of the national economic implosion and George W. Bush's catastrophically unpopular second term.   

In one of his favorite rhetorical flourishes, Rubio then took a break from media-bashing to lament that the problem is so complicated and that everyone shares blame:

"Btw, I’m not happy about this reality. It’s terrible for country," he tweeted. "Lack of trust in reporting leaves us vulnerable to conspiracy theories & unable to have debates b/c we can’t even agree on baseline facts. We are all ALL to blame for this mess. Sorry, that includes many in media."

Again, who are you talking about, Marco?

There's no doubt the Trump propaganda organs at Fox and Breitbart — who do, in fact, "knowingly" publish false information — deserve blame for the deepening distrust of the free press. But it's a fair wager that's not what Rubio had in mind.

It's depressing that a sitting U.S. senator has so little understanding of basic journalism. It's awful that Florida's senator won't stand up to a president who all but encourages violence against journalists. It's painful that Rubio's reaction to a bloodbath in an American newsroom is to complain about profanity on Twitter.

In fact, Marco, it's a fucking disgrace.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink