A couple weeks ago, the major headlines were all about the criminal probe into Congressman Matt Gaetz for alleged underage sex trafficking and other disturbing crimes. But now there’s barely any mention of his name in the media, even from news outlets that hate Matt Gaetz. So what’s the deal?
Here’s the thing about federal criminal investigations: they continue to move forward behind the scenes whether the media is making a big deal out of them or not. It’s just that few if any new details about the Gaetz scandal and probe have emerged this week, and so there have been few if any headlines about him. It’s not an indicator of what progress the criminal probe might be making; it’s merely an indicator of what happens to be leaking out publicly. So the media doesn’t have anything new to say about Gaetz right now, so it’s not saying much.
That’s fair enough. But here’s the thing. As some folks have pointed out on social media, a lack of new information has never stopped the media from spending months on end hyping scandals that were ratings-friendly in nature – even if they’re the flimsiest of nonsensical scandals – such as Hillary Clinton’s imaginary email scandal.
If MSNBC and CNN were able to get ratings by rehashing the Matt Gaetz story over and over, they’d be doing so at the top of every hour, all day every day, even if there was no new information. For whatever reason, perhaps due to the disturbingly icky nature of the allegations, viewers apparently aren’t interested in watching the Gaetz scandal get rehashed all day every day while we wait for new information about it.
So we end up with this completely unfair, totally biased, and frankly harmful situation where the media spends all day every day hyping fake scandals about Democrats as if they were real, while not spending more time than they have to on real scandals about Republicans. It ends up giving everyone the impression that the Democrats are more scandalous than the Republicans, when the facts make clear that the opposite is true.
Soon enough, more details about the Matt Gaetz scandal will leak out publicly, and the media will resume covering him. And if the Feds are indeed indicting him, it’ll happen on their timetable, regardless of how the media covers the story in the meantime. Gaetz isn’t “getting away” with anything because his name has temporarily faded from the headlines. It’s not how these things work. But the media is doing harm to the public discourse when it covers political scandals based on how ratings-friendly they are, and not based on how serious or legitimate they are – and that needs to change.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report