-By Warner Todd Huston
In his recent column on the GOP candidates running to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., the Chicago Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart either lied about his ultimate goal or he is just a terrible journalist. Either way his latest piece turned out to be a mere hit piece instead of news.
Ruthhart’s piece was apparently supposed to be informing the Tribune’s readers about the several Republican candidates vying to replace the disgraced Jesse Jackson, Jr. in the special election for Chicago’s Second Congressional District. Instead of giving a fair representation of that information, though, Ruthhart misled readers.
In the case of candidate Eric Wallace, Ruthhart offers opinion, not facts, and with Paul McKinley the writer doesn’t give all the facts pertinent to the points he raised so that readers can fully understand what is going on with the candidate.
First Ruthhart smears Eric Wallace as a dunce.
But when it comes to policy specifics, Wallace sometimes struggles to articulate his position. When asked by the Tribune editorial board how he would cut Medicare, Wallace began to read from a conservative think tank’s proposal. Wallace also couldn’t say whether he would have voted for Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget last year, admitting he hadn’t studied it closely.
Carthhart states as fact that “Wallace sometimes struggles to articulate his position” but does not really prove his case. Instead he just says it as if it is obvious.
How does reading from a think tank policy position disqualify Wallace? Ruthhart doesn’t say. Does Ruthhart imagine that every elected official has a full understanding of every issue facing the country without ever relying on the white paper work of think tanks? If so, it is Ruthhart that is “struggling” to understand reality. The whole reason think tanks exist–both left and right–is to help lawmakers and policy writers understand the issues.
As to voting for or against Paul Ryan, Wallace isn’t running for office for last year. He’s running for the future and Paul Ryan’s budget is a dead letter for future congresses. And “controversial”? Here Ruthhart is just characterizing something based on his bias against it. No wonder Wallace didn’t want to answer to that characterization!
Ruthhart did not prove has bald faced claim that Wallace is stupid.
Next he gave the grand reveal that candidate McKinley had served jail time.
In the 1970s and ’80s, McKinley was convicted of six felony counts, serving nearly 20 years in prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery. McKinley declined to discuss the circumstances of those crimes, but has dubbed himself the “ex-offender preventing the next offender” in his campaign.
Here it would have been nice of Ruthhart would have noted that McKinley has made his past offense a focus of his campaign. Far from this being shocking news, McKinley has repeatedly said that his past taught him much in life and his come back from that brink is what makes him a great candidate.
As Jeremy Segal notes, “McKinley has credited this experience with driving his desire to bring justice to the streets of his community by fighting against Chicago Machine politics.”
McKinley even made a campaign video explaining his life’s story:
Ruthhart, however, does not waste any time pointing this out and presents McKinley as a felon as if the candidate was trying to hide the facts and avoid talking about it all.
No, what we got from the Chicago Tribune was just a hit piece thinly disguised as a news report.