May 1 2007

A Jury of His Peers

Editor's Note

It turns out that the White House Correspondents Association does something besides holding banquets—it also gives out prizes. This year’s recipient of its Aldo Beckman Award, given for “repeated excellence in White House coverage,” was Kenneth T. Walsh of U.S. News & World Report.

As Walsh is the only reporter to be twice honored with a Beckman, we have to assume that he represents what his peers see as the best of their profession. That’s what worries us.

FAIR (Media Views, 6/13/06) described an article Walsh wrote last year (6/19/06) as a “cheerleading account” that “openly adopts the [White House’s] PR rhetoric as its own”: He reported that “Bush is building on his upward bounce by showing a new receptivity to fresh ideas and a willingness to change the way he does business”—referring to one of a series of “upward bounces” spotted by the media as Bush’s approval rating remained mired in the 30s.

Another piece (1/17/06) that was actually singled out by the WHCA as a reason to give Walsh a prize was described by Media Views (1/17/06) as a “lengthy sycophantic profile of Dick Cheney” that marked “an abysmal journalistic low.”

Without any apparent irony, Walsh compared Cheney to George Washington (Extra! Update, 4/06); perhaps that’s what U.S. News editor Brian Kelly (, 4/4/07) meant when he praised Walsh’s “historian’s eye.”

Walsh has continued to produce the same caliber of work, notably a feature (4/22/07) on “chameleon” candidates that demonstrated the sort of mindless “balance” that must win you the approval of the White House press corps: After noting Rudy Giuliani’s abortion peregrinations, John McCain’s cozying up to right-wing Christians he once despised and Mitt Romney’s inconsistency about everything, Walsh felt obligated to find equally telling examples of Democratic hypocrisy.

The best he could muster against Democrats was that Hillary Clinton hasn’t repudiated her Iraq vote, an odd way to prove inconsistency. Barack Obama’s “rise has been meteoric,” and people aren’t sure he’s got enough experience. And John Edwards was a “sunny optimist” in 2004 who “called for reducing the disparities between rich and poor,” and now he’s “running from the left.” What a chameleon!

With reporting like this, can a third Beckman be in the cards?