Congressman has himself often referred to press as ‘fake news’
Mr Biden was caught on a mic referring to Fox News reporter Peter Doocy “a stupid son of a b****” while taking questions from reporters at the White House on Monday; the exchange immediately caught fire on Twitter as liberals applauded the president for lashing out at the combative Mr Doocy, who frequently spars with Mr Biden’s press secretary at on-camera briefings.
Later that evening, Rep Jim Banks of Indiana fired off a bizarre query on Twitter, asking his followers: “Have we ever seen a President attack and malign the free press like Joe Biden has??”
The remark was strange for several reasons, the most glaring one being the four-year reign of former President Donald Trump, who frequently attacked the press and members of the press corps personally, both in person at press conferences and through vicious attacks on Twitter.
Mr Banks, a close ally of the former president in the House, is no stranger to those attacks. A quick review of his Twitter timeline shows that Mr Banks has used Mr Trump’s favoured epithet for the press, “fake news”, several times in tweets from his congressional account since he took office in 2017.
Have we ever seen a President attack and malign the free press like Joe Biden has??
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) January 24, 2022
“In era of fake news, publishers need to be forthright when they publish fiction,” he wrote in one tweet attacking The New York Times in 2019.
The Indiana congressman would go on to attack the press again himself just minutes later on Monday with a tweet calling CNN’s Brian Stelter “not a journalist”.
“He’s a Democrat political activist and isn’t even ashamed to show it!” wrote the congressman.
He was roundly mocked for the remark on Twitter, including by journalists such as MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, who summed up what many felt: “This is a joke, right?”
“Beyond f****** parody,” added Charlie Sykes, founder and editor-at-large of the conservative site The Bulwark.
Mr Trump and Mr Banks’s comments aside, the Indiana congressman would not even have to look that far back in history to find better examples of presidential administrations having rocky records on press freedoms. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department seized phone records from reporters at the Associated Press and obtained a search warrant for the emails of James Rosen, then the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News.
Mr Banks made headlines throughout 2021 as a result of his battles with Democratic leaders in the House over the January 6 committee, to which he was nominated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy but rejected for membership by Speaker Nancy Pelosi due to his comments about the attack itself. He would later go on to sign letters referring to himself as the ranking Republican on the committee in attempts to obtain information from at least one federal agency about the committee’s investigation.