By Dana Milbank
A sampling of headlines atop the influential Politico Playbook newsletter over the past month:
“Let the Democratic freakout begin.”
“Dems start to face the hard questions.”
“Does the WH owe Larry Summers an apology?”
“The other big intra-Democratic fight.”
“No BIF bump for Biden.”
“White House braces for a bad CBO score.”
“ … Biden dithers …”
“Biden tries to calm nerves about 2024.”
“The case for why Biden is screwed.”
Even the extraordinary news that jobless claims had dropped to the lowest level in 52 years came with a qualifier: “BUT, BUT, BUT … don’t expect [the numbers] to immediately change Americans’ negative perceptions of the economy.”
It isn’t just Politico. My impression of other outlets’ coverage of President Biden had been much the same: unrelentingly negative. Was it my imagination?
No, it wasn’t.
Artificial intelligence can now measure the negativity with precision. At my request, Forge.ai, a data analytics unit of the information company FiscalNote, combed through more than 200,000 articles — tens of millions of words — from 65 news websites (newspapers, network and cable news, political publications, news wires and more) to do a “sentiment analysis” of coverage. Using algorithms that give weight to certain adjectives based on their placement in the story, it rated the coverage Biden received in the first 11 months of 2021 and the coverage President Donald Trump got in the first 11 months of 2020.
The findings, painstakingly assembled by FiscalNote vice president Bill Frischling, confirmed my fear: My colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.
After a honeymoon of slightly positive coverage in the first three months of the year, Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as — and for a time worse than — the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020.