ANALYSIS: Media Coverage of Biden Administration Will Be as Hard to Parody as Donald Trump

December 21, 2020

It is often said that Donald Trump killed satire because many of his actions (and tweets) since announcing his campaign for president were so outlandish they could not be parodied. (Case in point.)

The same will not be said of the media's coverage of the Biden administration. But early indications suggest it will be just as true. Specifically, the recent coverage of Pete Buttigieg's nomination to lead the Department of Transportation has been just as destructive to satire.

Case in point:

Tribe, who appears regularly on CNN to provide expert analysis and commentary, isn't a journalist who covers politics. But he might as well be, because his take on Buttigieg's nomination is no less ridiculous than the actual reporting on it, the majority of which insists on portraying the former mayor of South Bend as a celebrity rather than a politician—as predicted by the Washington Free Beacon.

Try to imagine the following sentence being written about a Republican politician, then imagine how ruthlessly serious journalists would mock that politician and the media outlet that wrote it. By NPR:

Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Biden's pick for transportation secretary, said he has "a personal love of transportation," recounting train trips on Amtrak while in college, and said he proposed to his now-husband, Chasten, in an airport terminal.

Or this hilarious CNN headline: "Pete Buttigieg on being named transportation secretary nominee: 'The eyes of history are on this appointment.'"

The media certainly didn't write so fawningly about Richard Grenell, who became the first openly gay cabinet official when Trump named him acting intelligence director earlier this year. But they insist on describing Buttigieg as "historic," because he'll be the first openly gay cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate.

Rather than concern themselves with tangential issues like whether the 38-year-old former mayor of Indiana's fourth-largest city is qualified to run a federal department, the media have decided to focus on other, more important things.

The Washington Post, for example, seized on Buttigieg's remarks by publishing an "analysis" piece in its "relationships" section under the headline: "Pete Buttigieg is right. Airports are romantic." The Washingtonian offered suggestions on which trendy D.C. neighborhood Pete and his husband, Chasten, should call home.

It gets worse. A recent edition of Politico's Playbook contains one of the most nauseating passages ever written about a politician, about how Buttigieg and his husband have been hosting virtual "holiday soirees," including one featuring celebrity chef José Andrés.

The power couple have reportedly been entertaining their guests with transportation puns, such as "Chasten your seat belt." Oh, and in case you were wondering, Chasten can't decide what he likes more, listening to the soundtrack to A Child's Christmas in Wales or listening to Pete's singing.

Biden hasn't even been sworn in yet, but the media are already behaving like a bunch of fawning teens when it comes to covering the Democrats who will soon wield enormous power in Washington.

The president-elect's nominee for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, faces serious questions about the consulting firm he cofounded. The New Yorker recently investigated his music obsession for a piece titled "A Dad-Rocker in the State Department."

The media's fangirl obsession with Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, is beyond embarrassing, and increasingly difficult to satirize. When a group of liberal activists warned journalists to refrain from "sexist news coverage," such as reporting on a female politician's looks and fashion choices, they nodded along. When Kamala Harris wore a pair of trendy shoes, they lost their minds.

Journalists largely disgraced themselves during the Trump administration, but at the very least they insisted on treating powerful politicians the way they deserve to be treated: with intense scrutiny, skepticism, and mockery. It won't last. Many outlets are (rightly) worried that Trump's departure will completely upend their business model of catering to the #Resistance.

Biden himself is no celebrity. He doesn't even like the media, but he knows what they'll let him get away with. For example: talking to celebrities about issues he'd rather not discuss with actual reporters. Biden's first comments in response to the news that his son, Hunter, is being investigated for tax fraud came 11 days after the fact, during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

It's going to be a fun four years.