Jake Tapper Can't Keep His Objectivity in His Pants

Jake Tapper, a.k.a. the Littlest Sam Donaldson, told the National Review that he's so so serious about reportorial objectivity that he doesn't vote. Which is funny because he once dated John McCain's flack!

In the National Review profile, which is part of an ongoing right-wing fanfare for Tapper's self-important approach to covering the White House, the ABC Newsman waxes wise on media bias:

Still, he admits that there has been a clear bias in favor of Obama. "Certain networks, newspapers, and magazines leaned on the scales a little bit," he told Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic. However, while covering the 2000 election for Salon, Tapper was also quite public about his feeling that the media were "refusing to shine a light on the things Bush doesn't seem to know or understand." Obviously, Tapper doesn't think the cure for bias in one direction is to be biased in the opposing direction. (He says he doesn't vote in presidential elections, to help preserve his objectivity.)

On the spectrum of self-righteous journalistic self-abnegation, the refusal to vote is generally thought to be at the extreme end. We imagine, however, that if Tapper's delicate journalistic scales of objectivity can't survive a pull at the voting lever, then he'd also try to avoid getting romantically involved with the press secretaries of the politicians he covers, which can naturally present rather knotty ethical puzzles.

Back in 2000, when he was a political reporter for Salon, Tapper dated Nancy Ives, who was at the time the press secretary to Sen. John McCain. In a May 2000 Daily News item on the affair, Tapper coyly batted questions away, but didn't deny it. The item appeared about two months after McCain's primary campaign ended on March 9, 2000, so it's entirely possible that Tapper and Ives didn't become entangled until after Tapper, who had been on the trail with the McCain campaign, was no longer covering Ives' boss.

But just two weeks before the item appeared, Tapper was filing glowing, reputation-burnishing dispatches from Vietnam on McCain's poignant return to the land where he spent nearly six years as a POW. We wonder if Ives was on that trip.

Tapper can date whomever he pleases (he got married in 2006; Ives appears to have gone on to head up an astroturf-seeming advocacy group called the Fair Access to Energy Coalition).

The notion that even private, constitutionally protected expressions of political preference can somehow threaten to infect a reporter's hard-won objectivity is silly and stupid and needlessly abstemious and adds to the useless mythology of journalist-as-superhumanly-even-handed-fairness-machine—as opposed to the reality that reporters are flawed human beings capable of using reason and common sense to keep their own beliefs and priorities in perspective as they navigate stories.

But whatever. If you don't want to vote, don't vote. But he ought to spare us the phony moralism about the lengths he will go to remain objective.