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Yellow Journalism Reinvented by the Democratic Party (from a Wall Street Journal article)

“Yellow journalism” means a sensationalized press. Perhaps it is time to introduce “blue journalism”—the new media practice of abandoning standards to work seamlessly with the progressive left against any opposition.

A case study is the attempted political assassination of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. The press has never liked most Republicans. Yet for most of Mr. Johnson’s decade in the Senate, it’s generally described him as what he is: an outsider businessman and fiscal conservative with a focus on deficits and spending. “Wisconsin’s senior senator is a numbers guy, a believer in the power of facts and figures,” wrote Milwaukee Magazine in his first term. In recent years, serving on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he’s developed a reputation for oversight.

What’s this all about? From the Times story, it amounts to this: Mr. Johnson has refused to brand everyone present in Washington on Jan. 6 as “insurrectionists”; he’s continued to note that last year’s Black Lives Matter protests led to rioting, looting, arson and death; he held hearings on treatments for Covid and 2020 election integrity; and he’s declined, for now, a Covid vaccine, given he had the disease last year and decided to let others go before him.

None of this is remotely conspiratorial or even controversial. Mr. Johnson’s real offense is refusing to roll over to the progressive and public-health police and continuing to ask tough questions.

The Democrat-media complex hates those questions. The Beltway press has a special grudge against Mr. Johnson, since his fact-finding efforts exposed its bias and ineptitude last fall. Mr. Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley in September issued a report on Hunter Biden’s sleazy foreign business dealings. Democrats and the media tried mightily to brand it “Russian disinformation,” only to be roundly refuted when the younger Mr. Biden’s business partner and documents later backed up the report, and when news leaked that Hunter Biden was under federal investigation for the sort of transactions Mr. Johnson had brought to light.

Mr. Johnson isn’t doing anything differently now. The only thing that has changed is a press corps that is now brazenly using recent crises to fabricate story lines to the left’s advantage. The recent anti-Johnson pieces are stunning in their willingness to twist the senator’s words or take his positions out of context.

No, he hasn’t diminished “confidence” in mass vaccinations, as the Times claims; he’s repeatedly praised Operation Warp Speed. Some public-health experts have argued that those who have been infected should have lower vaccination priority while supplies are limited. No, he has not “promoted discredited Covid-19 treatments”; he held a hearing with respected physicians who worried that authorities hadn’t been proactive enough in investigating common drugs that might save lives. No, he hasn’t denied “the violence of the mob” on Jan. 6; he’s condemned the lawbreakers repeatedly while asking tough questions about what really happened that day.

How does the Times practice journalism? The piece asserted that Mr. Johnson’s “drumbeat of distortions, false theories and lies reminds some Wisconsin Republicans” of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It even quoted former Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a fellow Republican, saying the infamous senator’s name. But Mr. Sensenbrenner tells me he never said Mr. Johnson was like McCarthy—and the Times knows it. He’d been making a general point about Wisconsin’s love of mavericks (he also mentioned Sen. William Proxmire ), and noting that its voters appreciate that Mr. Johnson “thinks outside the box.”

The only McCarthyism going on, Mr. Sensenbrenner says, is being practiced by the left against people like Mr. Johnson “for asking inconvenient questions.” Former Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble tells me the Times also called him but didn’t quote him, presumably because he didn’t give the paper what it was looking for: “They clearly went into this with an agenda, they were seeking specific quotes to get to a conclusion.”

Notably missing from these pieces are any real mention of the bigger reason for these unrelenting attacks: 2022. Now that five Senate Republican incumbents have announced they won’t run for re-election, Mr. Johnson may be the last GOP incumbent potentially running in a swing state. ( Marco Rubio is up again, too, but Florida has been looking good for Republicans.) Wisconsin Democrats by mid-January had already launched the first TV ads of the 2022 cycle, outrageously tying Mr. Johnson to the Capitol riot.

The blue press is now doing its part to help, serving (to borrow the Times’s words) as the “foremost amplifier of conspiracy theories and disinformation” about the senator. The Democrat-media establishment figures its efforts will cause Mr. Johnson to retire and provide Democrats an easier target next year, or alternatively make him unelectable. Republicans would do well to internalize the Johnson treatment. Much of the press no longer has a commitment to truth, fairness or honesty. Its commitment is to Democratic power.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

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