The New Right Media: Not Homophobic!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 8 2014 10:43 AM

The New Right Media: Not Homophobic!

Reid Cherlin's Politico Magazine piece about "the HuffPo-ization of the right" is a fun read, if a little late. Is it news that Tucker Carlson's magazine, the Daily Caller, is a sort of answer to the dishy, news-plus-sideboob style of the Huffington Post? Exactly four years ago I published an interview with Carlson about the about-to-be-launched site, "along the lines of the Huffington Post"—his words. 

Well, whatever. Cherlin's right that the new online right media draws more from the blog/Internet era, less from the tradition of thick policy journals. But this graf about the Washington Free Beacon doesn't sit wellt:

A recent story about Democratic congressional candidate Sean Eldridge hedging on his support for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Affordable Care Act identified Eldridge as “husband of New Republic editor and millionaire ‘poke’ button pioneer Chris Hughes”—wording that’s hard not to read as a smirking reference to Eldridge and Hughes’s same-sex marriage.
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"Hard not to read?" The "poke" button is a Facebook innovation that was introduced to great mockery, and the mockery never really stopped. The joke seemed to be that Hughes made his fortune on social media ephemera, not that Hughes was gay. Is there something "gay" about poking?

WFB Managing Editor Sonny Bunch agrees with me:

Untrue and unfair! We were taking a shot at Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge for a.) doing absolutely nothing to earn a vast sum of money and then b.) using that unearned fortune to buy a seat in Congress. I don't think anyone at the Beacon really cares that they're gay.

Right, Hughes/Eldridge are sui generis. If a straight woman owned the New Republic and her husband ran for Congress, WFB would cover it the same way. 

Stepping away from my unwanted role as Media Joke Monitor (I'm done with Melissa Harris-Perry posts, I swear), the only other objection I'd raise to Cherlin's piece is that "HuffPo-ization" doesn't necessarily mean tabloid-ization. The Huffington Post's Jason Cherkis famously spent eons on a story about the persistent Austin rumor that Rick Perry was gay.

HuffPo never ran it. But The Daily Caller has run, in the past year or so, a story tying Sen. Bob Menendez to prostitutes (sourced to people who retracted their story, admitting they were put up to it), a story claiming that Cory Booker didn't live in Newark (sourced to "neighbors" who were anti-Booker activists), and a story that mistook an old college newspaper satire for proof that a New York Times reporter posed for Playgirl.* When the DC overstated the cost of a new EPA rule, its then-managing editor responded by making fun of the people who'd pointed out the error. That's a very small proportion of fakery on a site that publishes thousands of pieces, but I think there's an asymmetry between left media and right media in how they handle mistakes—or the risks they take that lead to mistakes.

*Correction, Jan. 8, 2014: This post originally stated that the Daily Caller ran a story that mistook an old college newspaper satire for proof that New York Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick posed for Playboy.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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