Author: Becket Adams
The press has a message for 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke: The thrill is gone.
Newsrooms loved the former Democratic Texas congressman when he ran (and lost) against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018. Let’s be real: They slobbered all over the guy.
But that was then, and this is now. The press have gone from churning out plush, overly friendly media profiles, and even sitting on major stories that made him look bad, to sifting through the former lawmaker’s none-too-flattering voting record and publishing harsh and sometimes antagonizing commentaries on his candidacy.
It is like watching a passionate fling fall apart, where one party feels aggrieved and decides to air her ex-lover’s dirty laundry all over the internet.
The most apparent about-face on O’Rourke coverage can be seen at the Daily Beast. It produced a number of perfectly adequate straight-news stories during the 2018 Senate race, but very little in terms of critical commentary. Here is a basic sampling of headlines from when the Daily Beast covered O’Rourke’s doomed Senate campaign:
Then, starting in April, after O’Rourke announced he would run for president, the Daily Beast’s coverage underwent a tonal shift. Here are just a few of the headlines published since April:
If you think that is amusing, you have not seen anything. There are also the newsrooms that were much more in love with O’Rourke during the 2018 Senate race, who published verbose and cloying profiles, and are now baring their fangs.
GQ, for example, has already published stories critical of his 2020 campaign, including a March 18 article titled, “Beto O’Rourke Raked in $6.1 Million in One Day with No Policy Details.” The report’s subhead reads, “He’s still not sure about single-payer health care.” There is also this March 13 story from GQ: “5 Tough Questions Beto O’Rourke’s Campaign Will Have to Answer.”
This is interesting, considering GQ published a mawkish, overly friendly story in 2018 that included lines such as, “This has been the summer of Beto — a giddy campaign season during which descriptive clichés like ‘Kennedy-esque’ and ‘punk-rock Democrat’ have abounded,” and “O’Rourke’s strengths — his charisma and optimism — are Cruz’s weaknesses.” But now, GQ seems to have just discovered that O’Rourke is light on policy, prompting them to ask “5 tough questions.”
There is also Politico, which just published a lengthy expose titled, “Beto’s Long History of Failing Upward.” But during the Senate race, when Cruz stood to lose his seat, Politico got in on the plush coverage game with an article titled, “Beto-mania Sweeps Texas.”
Then there is the New York Times, whose straight-news reports on O’Rourke’s presidential candidacy have been neither overly friendly nor overly disapproving. The Times’ opinion section, on the other hand, is a different story: “The Woman You Missed While You Were Paying Attention to Beto” and “The Next President Should Not Be a Man” are fun entries on that list — especially the former, which seems like a passive-aggressive shot across the newsroom at the author of the Times’ 2018 profile on Senate candidate O’Rourke. You know, the one that makes sure to mention his “restless energy.”
The Washington Post’s news and commentary sections have also featured unflattering articles, including “Why Beto O’Rourke is struggling to rekindle his 2018 spark,” “Beto O’Rourke offers a climate change plan, but some activists say it doesn’t go as far as the Green New Deal,” and “Beto O’Rourke has a new climate plan. Here’s the right reason to dislike it.”
But back in 2018, the Post was responsible for a particularly nauseatingly sentimental bit of drivel titled, “Beto O’Rourke is a Mexico-loving liberal in Texas. Can he really beat Ted Cruz?”
There is also Yahoo News, whose recent coverage of O’Rourke has been sparse but has included this gem: “Teenaged Beto’s misogynistic online posts.” This is a long way from Yahoo’s cushy 2018 profile, which included lines about O’Rourke’s “uncanny resemblance to Bobby Kennedy.” (He doesn’t look anything like Bobby Kennedy.)
The media have lost that loving feeling. If they cover him at all, it’s all finger-wagging and unflattering details about his flimsy personal resume.
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