NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt seemed to do the impossible during a recent speech. Somehow, the man managed to say something that was at once breathtakingly logical and also superbly irrational.
If you missed it, while receiving an award at some journalist confab called the Murrow Symposium, Holt ripped into the idea of "fairness," calling it overrated in his line of work.
"I think it's become clear that fairness is overrated ... the idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in," Holt lectured.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that I've always liked Holt. I'm quite confident he's a left-winger. After all, you don't ascend to the chair previously held by paragons of impartiality and neutrality like… *checks notes* …Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw, if you're not. But his story of humble beginnings as a country music station DJ is charming, and the man has worked his tail end off to get where he currently is – with a little help from Williams' inability to tell the truth, of course.
All that said, what Holt said at that event was completely reasonable.
"That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda, in fact, it's just the opposite."
I completely agree. We all should agree.
None of us should need to hear the "side" of the Nazi-sympathizers to know that their ideology is wicked. The testimony of history tells us that. Ditto that reality with the communists. We don't need to hear from the Marx apologists when Stalin's gulags, the human devastation from Mao's "Great Leap Forward," and Pol Pot's killing fields speak plenty loudly enough on their own.
There's nothing outrageous about news anchors and journalists discarding those ideas and refusing to lend them the credibility or civility of an open hearing.
Yet, go back and re-read his quote and tell me I'm wrong to find what Holt said to be supremely disingenuous and professionally indefensible. The idea that American journalists in mainstream media possess either the ideological discernment or moral clarity to determine what are "unsupported arguments" is absurd.
I would note that Holt made these comments the very same day that his compatriots at CNN were declaring it an unassailable fact that, "It's not possible to know a person's gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth."
See Lester, that's the problem right there.
Your colleagues in media are the problem.
The collective groupthink in your media complex that willfully interprets its role as propagandists for progressive policy objectives is the problem.
Your schools of journalism that pride themselves in graduating partisan advocates rather than diligent investigative reporters is the problem.
Your entire Big Media industry is the problem.
You all are precisely why your otherwise utterly sensible point is rendered moot.
Cornell Law prof William Jacobson said it best:
"In a better world in which the mainstream major media had a history of fairness and non-partisanship, Holt's point that journalism inherently involves filtering information might make sense. This is not such a better world, this is a world in which the mainstream major media wears its partisanship on its sleeve, manipulating the news cycle to the advantage of Democrats."
For heaven's sake, Lester, you yourself pandered to one of the most objectively dishonest politicians in American history – Hillary Clinton – saying you "winced" when people called her untruthful. Between her ducking sniper fire in Bosnia, blaming Benghazi on a YouTube video, and her notorious email server story, Hillary's belligerent dishonesty is as well known a fact as that "sun setting in the west."
So while I agree that the intellectual health of our society depends on those giving us the news not having to "both sides" every issue, specifically those issues where one side has been thoroughly discredited, I also am painfully aware that the most thoroughly discredited among us these days are those populating our newsrooms.
Hearing them declare war on "fairness" isn't likely to make that problem any better.