Home Media Damning with Faint Praise: Washington Post’s Manipulative article on Don Beyer

Damning with Faint Praise: Washington Post’s Manipulative article on Don Beyer


Yesterday’s Washington Post (WAPO) article by Paul Schwartzman on Don Beyer’s candidacy really begs for commentary because it is illustrative of what is wrong with today’s so-called journalism.  

Here we have a candidate from Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, an honorable man, who has long engaged in dedicated public service. He’s served as Virginia’s Lt. Governor, as Ambassador to Switzerland and in two Virginia administrations. He’s also been a successful businessman. Both public service and running a business are supposed to be positive things in our country, even according to most Republicans. But here the writer acts as if they are not. Oh, but the dealership ads were cute and well-written.

The writer goes on to pretend that Beyer runs for office now to check off something on a bucket list, a suggestion so unfair it defies imagination. How about the fact that there has never been a greater need for good qualified, experienced Democratic candidates to challenge the ruinous policies of the GOP?

Additionally, the writer pretends Beyer is on some sort of labor toward redemption, as if that were necessary. Would that the writer had ever accomplished as much.  

Related to Beyer’s obvious intelligence, the author grudgingly adds mention of the near-perfect scores Beyer scored on the SAT, but then goes on to portray a brilliant candidate as a flake, which Beyer clearly is not. And the author continues down this road despite also admitting Beyer’s outstanding grasp of public policy.  

Schwartzman outright questions why the voters of the 8th have embraced Beyer (“It’s less clear why voters have embraced him.”) As the author points out, Beyer isn’t a member of a minority or gay. And Schwartzman gives away his own stereotypical views by presuming progressives only vote for candidates of color or who are LGBT. Yes we do proudly vote for people of color and for those who are LGBT. And, yes, local Democrats had a long list of good candidates in the 8th race, but Beyer’s record, and yes, his name recognition, stood out. It is that simple.  Beyer also has many long-term supporters who were ready to turn out the vote for him, something successful candidates in both primaries and general elections need.

For a view on Beyer’s loss to Gilmore in 1997, Schwartzman goes to (of all people) Chris LaCivita, one of the most vicious campaigners ever (remember the Swift Boaters?) to work for GOP candidates. Seriously? And not surprisingly, LaCivita pronounced Beyer’s’ last “foray into politics cataclysmic.”  Well, what was cataclysmic was the effect on Virginia’s budget of the Gilmore car-tax cut, and LaCivita’s malicious Swift Boating in campaign politics.  This use of LaCivita by Schwartzman shows his intent more clearly than any other passage.

The article is filled with examples of damning with faint praise, trivializing, turning good qualities into questionable ones. In portions where Don talked about liking to create healing in the face of conflict (a good thing), the author makes Beyer seem New Agey, which, as far as I can tell, he is not.

The article also does a disservice to Meagan Beyer, a smart, accomplished, beautiful, energetic woman. Instead of those descriptors he makes her seem goofy, laughing too much, even smirking. He also makes her sound over-involved and controlling, but uses scant evidence to illustrate that. I doubt most of those knowing Meagan find the article a fair portrayal. One also wonders why the writer took such pains to side-track on the candidate’s wife.

A factual error in the article is Schwartzman’s claim that Beyer was the national treasurer for Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign to run as an “independent.” Of course, Howard Dean ran a progressive Democratic campaign on getting out of Iraq, health care for all, protecting the safety net, creating jobs, protecting civil liberties and general fairness to the 99%. Again: Howard Dean ran as a Democrat, running ahead of all other Democratic candidates until CNN manufactured the Dean “scream” and played the doctored footage hundreds (more than 600) of times in a single week. [It used sound-engineered footage pretending Dean was screaming in a quiet room making him look “off.” Yet the fact is there were thousands of screaming supporters and Dean had to yell to be heard above the din and beyond the limits of his own laryngitis.]  

I can’t help but think Schwartzman received his marching orders. Meanwhile, a very worthy candidate deserves Democrats’ support. The 8th will be lucky to have Don Beyer in Congress. And Beyer is far from done contributing. He’ll make his District and Virginia proud. Much more  on this race will follow.  


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