If you want to understand why Republicans think the news media are biased, contrast how two recent stories were — and weren’t — covered.
Start with an item making national news that’s bad news for Republicans. Brothel owner Dennis Hof beat Assemblyman Jason Oscarson in the Republican primary for Assembly District 36. Within hours of the election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt announced he wouldn’t be supporting Hof. This led to media members hounding other Nevada Republicans to determine whether they’d be supporting Hof. Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller and the Nevada Republican Assembly Caucus all distanced themselves from Hof.
Hof’s nomination exposes a tension in the Republican Party — libertarians versus social conservatives — that could have big ramifications in November. On Monday, Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox announced she was withdrawing her endorsement of Laxalt and supporting Ryan Bundy. Bundy, the son of rancher Cliven Bundy, is running for governor as an independent. To win, Laxalt will need to rack up significant support in rural Nevada to offset losses in Clark County. Losing even a few thousand votes to Bundy could cost Laxalt the election.
Throw in the fact that sex sells, and these are all reasons this story is worthy of aggressive coverage, even though Hof is running only for the Assembly in Pahrump.
But this wasn’t the only recent news that could have major electoral implications. Two weeks ago, Sen. Dean Heller’s campaign released video evidence that Rep. Jacky Rosen lied about her résumé by claiming to have a college degree she doesn’t have. Rosen is the Democrat running against Heller for U.S. Senate in one of the country’s highest profile-races.
Wait, you haven’t heard about that the résumé scandal? Not surprising. That’s because the media didn’t cover it, even though Rosen’s fib is on tape. In 1979, Rosen earned a degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota, but here’s what she told CSPAN3 last year.
“When I was in college in Minnesota, I actually got a degree in psychology and in computers, actually learned how to — I’m a computer programmer systems analyst by trade,” said Rosen. Maybe there’s an innocent explanation for why Rosen lied about her background, but her office didn’t return a request for comment.
It’s not just in business. Résumé falsehoods have derailed political ambitions. During his 1987 run for president, Joe Biden lied in a speech about finishing in the top half of law school at Syracuse. The Los Angeles Times online archive features an AP story that ran at the time of the incident, which concludes by asking if Biden’s “candidacy would survive the accusations.” The New York Times also covered the incident in a larger piece on Biden admitting to plagiarism. He dropped out of the race shortly thereafter.
Lena Guerrero was once a rising political star in Texas. She was the first female or Hispanic head of the powerful Railroad Commission. There were rumblings she could one day run for president. Yet you’ve probably never heard of her, because in 1992, it came out that she had lied about earning a college degree. She lost her next election, and Democrats considered her a “pariah.” She never ran for office again.
So why the disparity in coverage between Hof and Rosen? On the merits, it’s baffling. That’s what makes you start thinking about alternative explanations. In a 2013 national survey, just 7 percent of reporters self-identified as Republican. If Heller wins his election, Democrats have no chance of regaining control of the Senate.
Sometimes media bias is blatant. But often, it’s more subtle, like the media passing on telling you about Rosen’s résumé lie that could end her political career.