FLASHBACK: Lib Media Hated Hur’s ‘Elderly…Poor Memory’ Biden Report

News & Politics

A week after Joe Biden seemed lost and confused during CNN’s presidential debate, liberal journalists continue to freak out about the President’s poor performance. Yet just four months earlier, many of those same journalists vilified then-Special Counsel Robert Hur for honestly reporting that the decision not to pursue charges against Biden for willfully mishandling classified documents was because a jury would likely find Biden a “sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

Rather than push the White House for an independent evaluation of Biden’s capacity, journalists closed their eyes to reality and blindly echoed Democratic efforts to deflect and deny. The evening of the report’s release (February 8), ABC’s Mary Bruce highlighted Team Biden’s claim that everything was fine: “Biden’s legal team in a letter saying, quote, ‘We do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate. The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events. Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report.”

“This report reads like more than a recitation of facts,” PBS NewsHour co-anchor Geoff Bennett asked a pro-Biden legal expert that same evening. “Does it cross the line into excess?”

After the evening newscasts, Biden appeared at a hastily-arranged press conference to personally denounce Hur. During MSNBC’s live coverage that night, the network’s liberal partisans dutifully fell in line. The Beat host Ari Melber blasted the “cheap shot, derogatory attacks” in Hur’s report, adding: “Maybe Mr. Hur would be better suited going for a job as White House physician…”

During the same hour of coverage, the network’s 10pm host Lawrence O’Donnell grumbled that Hur had shown himself to be “kind of a wiseguy, partisan Republican,” while Joy Reid dismissed the report as “nasty and snarky for no reason.”

On the February 9 Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough was beside himself. “[It’s] so bizarre, and there’s so many people that immediately heard this, these random, random conclusions, irrelevant conclusions, politically charged, Trump-like, Trump-like ramblings who, first of all, wondered why in the world he would put that in the report, his neurological assessment of Joe Biden, and secondly, why Merrick Garland would release garbage like that,” Scarborough growled.

A few minutes later, he slammed Hur again: “It’s gratuitous, and he knows it was gratuitous, and it was bad faith, bad faith that he did it, and it was even, it was even worse judgment that the Justice Department allowed that garbage to be release.”

That same morning on CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called the references to Biden’s poor memory “an outrage, was a disgrace. I mean, the idea that they, that he would make such a big point of Biden being elderly is not something a prosecutor needed to do.”

And, even if Biden was mentally failing, “how is that worse than the alternative: another senior citizen who also has serious memory and confusion problems but who is also facing 91 criminal counts?” MSNBC afternoon host Katy Tur wondered.

That evening on NewsHour, commentator Jonathan Capehart maintained the party line, calling the report “gratuitous,” fuming: “We have spent way too much time talking about this President’s age. And I will say it again. When Ronald Reagan was the oldest person to ever be in the White House and to run for reelection, I don’t recall a lot of people within his own party talking about the fact that we need to get another person, he’s too old.”

“I found some of the language in the report a little bit gratuitous,” The Economist’s James Bennett echoed on PBS’s political roundtable program Washington Week an hour later. “I mean, it seemed to me to go unnecessarily far and a little bit that they were trying to smuggle some of the details in.”

“That was almost written for the tweet,” quipped host Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.

Ever helpful, the New York Times tracked down “experts” who claimed it was impossible for a layman like Hur to evaluate the President’s memory. Reporter Gina Kolata wrote that “while the report disparaged Mr. Biden’s mental health, medical experts on Friday noted that its judgments were not based on science and that its methods bore no resemblance to those that doctors use to assess possible cognitive impairment.”

On ABC’s This Week that Sunday (February 11), former Democratic U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara scolded Hur’s “gratuitous, superfluous statements about his [Biden’s] memory….That had no place in this document.”

Later on the same show, ABC commentator Donna Brazille sneered: “The Special Counsel was more interested in scoring, what appears to be scoring, political points than making legal arguments….You know what else is an issue? The wisdom and the experience.”

Over on NBC’s Meet the Press, MSNBC host (and former Biden press secretary) Jen Psaki explicitly requested the media bash Trump instead of Biden: “If you’re sitting in the White House and on the campaign right now you are absolutely banging your head against the wall at the way that the Thursday report has been covered, given all of the things that have happened this week….The fact that Donald Trump yesterday suggested that Vladimir Putin should have free reign in attacking NATO allies and what do we see is wall-to-wall coverage of whether a guy who is four years older than his opponent is too old to be president.”

In his February 9 column, liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman condemned Hur’s report as a “hit job,” and castigated Hur’s “snide, unwarranted, obviously politically motivated slurs about President Biden’s memory.”

Yet after watching the President’s debate disaster last week, Krugman changed his tune: “Given where we are, I must very reluctantly join the chorus asking Biden to voluntarily step aside, with emphasis on the ‘voluntary’ aspect.” Krugman had no apology for Hur, of course.

Looking back at the coverage from just four short months ago, it’s clear partisan elements of the press had no interest (then) in an honest evaluation of the President’s capabilities. Maybe they thought they were helping a “well-meaning, elderly” Democratic President sneak through one last election without voters noticing how significantly diminished he had become.

But it turns out that denying the truth about the President wasn’t a favor to Biden, to Democrats, or to the country. The media’s nasty rejection of Hur back in February merely delayed the inevitable until Joe Biden’s problems became too obvious to ignore.

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.                        

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