A commentary from Kansas Policy Institute CEO Dave Trabert
Within the last few days, the McClatchy-owned Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star harshly criticized people for politicizing the coronavirus situation, while seemingly oblivious to being guilty of the same.
This afternoon, the Eagle chastised Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell for ‘fanning the flames of the abortion debate’ by questioning whether an abortion clinic should be considered an essential business. O’Donnell’s question may be motivated by his pro-life beliefs. But McClatchy’s strong support of abortion is also a possible political motivation for going after O’Donnell. And given the Eagle’s and Star’s well-known support for Medicaid expansion, this news headline is also arguably politically motivated: “Kansas and Missouri didn’t expand Medicaid. Could that worsen the COVID-19 pandemic?”
There is no attempt to compare the coronavirus impact on states that expanded Medicaid versus those that didn’t; the reporters mostly just relate emotional stories from people who favor Medicaid expansion. The story gives token acknowledgment to expansion opposition near the end, but even that is politicized with a dog-whistle heads-up. For nothing but political reasons, they tell readers that expansion-opponent Americans for Prosperity has “…ties to Wichita’s billionaire Koch family.”
Yesterday, a Star editorial apoplectically lambasted Missouri State Senator Ed Emery for allegedly calling the coronavirus a Marxist plot and being “misguided” on the legalities of stay-at-home orders. But as the Star knows by sharing the source of Emery’s alleged sins – his newsletter – he’s not guilty as charged. Emery questioned the necessity of stay-at-home orders given the economic and social consequences, but not the legality. He did so thoughtfully, with respect, and devoid of the hysterics throughout the Star editorial.
Emery’s only sin may be that, like O’Donnell, he’s a Republican.
Politicized attacks by the Star on Republicans were called out in my guest column this week, entitled “Kansas Republicans are fighting government overreach, not politicizing coronavirus.” (Full disclosure, the Star applied the title; my submitted title was “Coronavirus reactions should be balanced, thoughtful.”)
The Star’s March 19 editorial slapped “Kansas and Missouri Republicans” for being “nakedly political” and not mirroring Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s actions. Their March 18 editorial criticized Republicans for attempting to protect Kansans’ liberties with oversight provisions in Governor Kelly’s emergency powers; nine Democrats were among the 37 senators who voted for those provisions, but only ‘Republicans’ were criticized.
The McClatchy papers make a good point in saying politics should be set aside in dealing with the coronavirus, but they certainly aren’t practicing what they preach.
Note: The Sentinel typically doesn’t publish commentaries. We made an exception in this case to fulfill our mission of holding media accountable for hypocritical, misleading, and politically-motivated statements in McClatchy’s editorials.