Politics

Defeated Hillary’s ‘Fake News’ Scapegoat

Democrats look to generate an excuse for losing to Trump, just as they did in 1988 and 2004

If you are wondering why the liberals, the Democrats, and the media are hitting the “fake news” narrative so hard, the explanation is a simple one.

They need a big and handy excuse for losing to Donald Trump.

“The Left has been doing this for years, and the Right simply caught up to them and they are not happy.”

Today, Democrat Hillary Clinton was in the Capitol claiming “fake news” is dangerous and an epidemic, and that it must be addressed. Fake news can put “lives at risk,” she said, and bipartisan legislation must be passed to censor what she called propaganda.

Thus, it begins: the excuse-making.

For the Left, the excuse should contain more than a dash of shaming. Trump and his allies need to be accused of something dastardly within this excuse — something like racism or malice.

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It’s usually what the cabal of media and party liberals do after losing what they considered a winnable presidential race. The excuse-making also has a goal to make sure the Democrats and the Left do not face similar tactics. That’s because the excuse usually involves content to which the Democrat objected.

This cycle’s excuse is fake news.

“Yes, there’s been some fakes news,” said Dan Gainor, vice president of the Media Research Center’s Business and Culture department. “They are doing it to silence the opposition … And this is collective finger-pointing by the media. They’ve got to blame somebody.”

The excuse will be used relentlessly. The excuse will be repeated over and over through the years, to tar the win of the Republican president, and to explain how the victimized Democrat lost.

There is perhaps no better example of this than the Willie Horton excuse of 1988.

After taking a beating on Election Day in 1988 — losing 40 states — Democrats took one of the issues they were most bitter about and used it as an excuse. The issue was the use of rapist and murderer Willie Horton as a tool to hammer the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis.

Horton was a convicted Massachusetts killer who got a weekend furlough in 1987. Horton did not come back to his prison, and instead ran to Maryland, where he raped a woman. Horton was caught and sentenced to life in a Maryland prison.

The Massachusetts furlough program, which allowed weekend passes for inmates, soon became a hot issue in the 1988 presidential race. Then-Sen. Al Gore, a Democrat, tried to use it against Dukakis, but to no avail. Dukakis won the Democratic nomination.

Then-Vice President George H. W. Bush’s campaign, run by legendary strategist Lee Atwater, hammered the issue repeatedly and effectively. But all hell broke loose when a third party, operated by Republican Floyd Brown, ran ads about Horton in Maryland.

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The third-party ad used pictures of Horton, who is black. The Bush campaign’s ads on the furlough program never showed Horton. But the Dukakis campaign seized on Brown’s ads and tried to accuse the Bush campaign of racial messaging before Election Day.

The issue never died completely, and was brought up by the media repeatedly during Bush’s first and only term. The apparent intent was to hobble the new president, George H. W. Bush, and his right-hand man, Atwater, whom Democrats loathed.

Democrats and the media never forgave Atwater, who died of cancer in 1991.

A chastened Bush pledged to run a more positive campaign in 1992, against Democratic Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who had his own plethora of issues tailor-made for TV ads. But Bush gave him somewhat of a pass. Clinton won.

Democrats and their media allies used the tactic again in 2004, this time against a different Bush.

President George W. Bush had just beaten Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat. Kerry and Democrats were bitter about third-party ads once again.

This time, the ads were run by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who claimed Kerry had exaggerated his experiences in Vietnam. Democrats and the media were so incensed, over time they turned the term “swift boat” into a verb. It means to aggressively target an opponent with nasty and dubious attacks.

After her loss on Nov. 8, Clinton now suggests the issue could cost “innocent lives” — linking fake news to a recent non-fatal shooting at a Washington pizza parlor related to a conspiracy theory perpetuated online.

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The suggestion, though, is fake news hurt her campaign.

Also on Thursday, Clinton’s former campaign communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, charged in an op-ed in The Washington Post that the Trump campaign gave a platform to white supremacists who spread fake news — adding the necessary shaming to the excuse-making.

Fake news gives liberals a handy truncheon to keep bashing Trump. But this excuse may be the weakest yet.

“The question is what is fake news? In the old days, we called them press releases or planted stories,” said Craig Shirley, a historian and biographer of Ronald Reagan. “We have witnessed the overt bias of the mainstream media for many a year, so aren’t those fake stories as well? I think they complain too much. The Left has been doing this for years, and the Right simply caught up to them and they are not happy.”

But for now Democrats and the liberal media seem very happy with the excuse. They will be using it a lot.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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