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The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous

The Washington Post is trying to stop Democrat Ben Jealous from becoming Maryland’s next governor. I wrote about this recently (here) and didn’t expect to do so again so soon, but the Post’s biased coverage has been too much to ignore.

At a rally in Montana last week President Trump railed against Jealous’s plan to provide free state college tuition to Dreamers – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

A sensible headline for a story on the president’s rant might read, “Trump Attacks Jealous,” as I pointed out on Twitter.

But with Trump despised in deep-blue Maryland, such a headline could only help Jealous, so the Post got creative. Instead of focusing on Trump’s attack, the Post switched the spotlight to Jealous’s response. The paper’s slanted headline read, “Jealous tries to leverage Trump’s attack on his free community college proposal.”

By the next day the Post had quietly changed the headline to “Trump slams Jealous’s plan for free community college for ‘dreamers’.”

Just a day earlier the Post got creative with another headline. When Jealous called for lowering Maryland’s sales tax – a move likely to be popular with voters – the Post switched the spotlight to his Republican opponent: “Borrowing a page from Gov. Larry Hogan, Ben Jealous wants to cut Md. sales tax.”

Hogan is the apple of the Post’s eye. He can do no wrong. I wrote about this in my earlier piece but the two weeks since have offered ample examples.

The Buck Stops Somewhere Else

As the Post tells it, Maryland’s problems are not attributable to Hogan. This viewpoint is evident in the coverage of the recent wave of school closures due to hot temperatures and lack of air-conditioning.

Along with the heat, apparently a collective political helplessness has descended en masse upon Maryland parents, at least those who speak with the Post’s Erin Cox. Society’s “lack of caring has gotten worse” but there’s no one to hold accountable since “everybody has something to do with it,” lamented a father. Reflecting on the governor’s race, a mother said, “I’m over it.”

One Post story, which notes that over 134,000 students were sent home early in Prince George’s County alone, manages to avoid naming Hogan at all.

As with schools, the Post also refuses to hold Hogan accountable for the actions of his fellow Republicans, despite his leadership position as vice-chair of the Republican Governors Association.

When Trump recently announced his plan to freeze federal workers’ pay – which would negatively impact the D.C. region, including many of Hogan’s constituents – the Post asked Republican representatives from neighboring Virginia where they stand, with Trump or their constituents. But the Post hasn’t put the same question to Hogan, the region’s highest-ranking Republican.

Last week when Nike launched its campaign starring Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback and social justice activist, the Republican mayor of La Plata, Maryland put out a call to “#BoycottNike.” Backlash ensued, but not for Hogan. The Post didn’t ask the governor, the leader of the Maryland Republicans, if he supported the mayor’s call, which she withdrew.

If You Pave It They Will Come

Perhaps the biggest pass the Post has given Hogan is over his $9 billion plan to add toll lanes to crowded Maryland highways (I-270, the Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway).

What Hogan says will be the country’s largest public-private partnership got off to an inauspicious start. The initial contract for overseeing and managing the mega-project was killed because of questions surrounding lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest. The Post reported on this at the time, but with the election nearing it’s now politely forgotten.

Even if the contracting is flawless going forward the project will still be a “boondoggle,” according to a report by two public interest groups, U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group. They point out that adding lanes only lures more drivers to the road and traffic quickly rebounds to prior levels, while pollution increases. Meanwhile the report also notes that Hogan’s plan “will likely require relocating homes and businesses,” which would be politically toxic.

Hogan insists he can expand the highways without the use of eminent domain, but some media outlets are challenging his claim (here,here,here). The Post has been less critical, headlining a recent story, “State official: Widening of Beltway, I-270 would be in existing right of way.” (As with the headline noted earlier, this one was also quietly changed.)

With the Post carrying water for Hogan, Jealous (who I support) has a heavy lift, especially since he has just one debate in which to directly challenge Hogan.

Debatable

Moderated by Maryland Public Television, the September 24 debate will include questions from reporters at the Post, the Baltimore Sun, WBAL and WJLA (Channel 7).

This lineup could be a problem for Jealous, and not just because of the Post. WJLA is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, the vast right-wing television network that helped elect Trump (here).Previously, Sinclair used its powerful reach to aid a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Maryland, its home state. This past spring many learned of Sinclair’s questionable practices when it required newscasters around the country, including at WJLA, to read from the same “Orwellian” script.

Instead of just one 60-minute debate, Jealous wanted five debates, and for the pool of media sponsors to be expanded to better reflect the diversity of the state. But the Post dismissed this, saying Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, was suggesting sponsors that “­cater more to minority viewers” only because they’re “crucial to his coalition.”

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Pete Tucker is a journalist based in DC. He can be reached at his website.

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