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1/22/20

Will the media let Joe Biden get away with this?

Joe Biden is running one of the most dishonest Democratic primary campaigns in memory. It isn't unusual for candidates to lie about minor issues, or to misrepresent a bad vote or two, but that is not what is happening here. Here's what's happening: on two central issues of this election, war and Social Security, Biden is blatantly lying about his well-established record as a hawk and champion of austerity. And every journalist working anywhere near politics knows this - and yet if their coverage of this primary so far is any indication, it seems entirely likely that they're going to let Biden continue lying without serious pushback.

Consider Social Security. Joe Biden is telling voters that he's "been fighting to protect — and expand — Social Security for my whole career." This is a brazen lie. Biden has called for cuts to Social Security over and over and over again. He has bragged about this. If people are looking for someone who has defended Social Security and Biden deceives them into thinking he has done so, it will be one of the most egregious frauds perpetrated on Democratic voters in our lifetime. 

This isn't a small lie - it's a huge, campaign-defining lie. It's not just sort of wrong or misleading - it is the exact opposite of true. It isn't difficult to debunk - we have endless footage of him calling for Social Security cuts. This isn't even an obscure lie: again, every single journalist with any kind of significant platform knows that Biden is lying, and if they say otherwise then they are lying, too.

Yes, we are going to get some of the usual posts from outlets like The Intercept and Jacobin calling Biden out. A few outlets like NYMag and Vox will probably roll out a take on this just to check the box. If we're lucky, Politifact will hem and haw and wind up declaring Biden's denial mostly false.  But what we are not going to see is the kind of sustained and unequivocal coverage in the big legacy media platforms that can make a significant impact on voters. If Lester Holt or CBS Evening News starts talking about it, then maybe your Iowan grandma will notice it while she's waiting to watch Wheel of Fortune. But if it's just a throwaway tweet from Ezra Klein or a token concession buried in paragraph three of a Paul Krugman column, say goodbye to Social Security.