By Steve Krakauer
Something completely absurd took place last week, and the fact that it happened without much uproar or discussion shows us two major storylines for the next four years in the media. Stephen Colbert, the current host of “The Late Show” on CBS (taking over the spot where David Letterman occupied for many years) sat down for a lengthy interview with president-elect Joe Biden. The interview included a variety of topics, but toward the end, Colbert broached the Hunter Biden investigation, asking Biden about the way others might use it “as a cudgel” against him. “We have great confidence in our son,” he told Colbert. “I am not concerned with any accusation against him.”
The comments were notable, because they were the first on-camera, on-record comments Biden has given since the news broke 11 days ago about the years-long Hunter Biden investigation into tax issues, money laundering and other elements of business dealings in China. Besides Peter Doocy of Fox News shouting questions at Biden after some prepared transition press conference, no one in the media seems bothered by it. So we get the complete absurdity of tweets like this, from the anchor of the CBS Evening News, Norah O’Donnell, tweeting about this exclusive from the late night host who airs five hours later:
What would Walter Cronkite have to say about that?
This moment raises two important factors. The first is that Joe Biden and his transition team think they can get away with this treatment of the press – that giving a response to the years-long investigation of your son’s business dealings, that never seemed to rise to the public consciousness pre-election, on a late night show will be met with no resistance. We don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, but besides a few reporters asking the transition team to allow for more than five questions on their once-a-week Zoom briefings (and apparently so far getting denied), we don’t hear much of an issue with this.
This complete lack of public curiosity and accountability does not bode well for the next four years.
But it also shows us the kind of president Joe Biden will be, which doesn’t bode well for the media business over the next four years. I talked with Tucker Carlson on my Fourth Watch podcast a couple months ago about the celebrity-fication of politics, which started with President Barack Obama, and of course has continued with President Donald Trump. The media treated Obama like a superhero, and, of course, has treated Trump like a supervillain. The thing is, though – you can put both of them on the movie poster.
Both Obama and Trump were good for the news business, even as they were covered, in general, quite differently. Can you put Joe Biden on the movie poster? Does that sell the film? I don’t think so.