Neera Tanden Is the Last Person You Should Ask About Journalistic Independence


On MSNBC’s Meet the Press Tuesday, panelists discussed presidential hopeful and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ criticism of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his perceived influence over the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Neera Tanden, the excessively online (she blocked me ages ago) president of the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal think tank, joined in the fun.

It just so happens that Tanden already had a nuclear take today, but now she has returned to gift us with more of her thoughts, this time comparing Sanders to President Donald Trump.

She told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt: “So I think he did get a lot of criticism for this because both he and Trump are attacking Jeff Bezos’ ownership. It’s absolutely legitimate to attack Amazon and say how outrageous it is that it’s not paying taxes, but it’s a separate thing altogether to say his press is derived from that, and so I’m glad he walked it back.”

Then, she added an escalation: “I think it actually created a lot of anxiety among Democrats who do see a free press as really critical in this moment when Trump is attacking the press.”

Amazon disclosed in a filing that it donated at least $10,000 to CAP in 2018.

Sanders’ critique is completely legitimate, if you ask me. The Washington Post’s so-called fact-checker Glenn Kessler regularly attacks Sanders on ridiculous grounds. The Post also posts stories that read like press releases for Amazon, like this one.

That’s not to say the newspaper does not feature good reporting, but these aspects, coupled with the fact that they could in theory have boundless journalistic resources if their owner were more generous, are troubling. In fact, we could all have boundless resources if Bezos shared, but that’s another story.

Everything you need to know about what Tanden thinks of journalistic independence is shown in her handling of ThinkProgress, the news blog run by CAP. According to the New York Times, Tanden assaulted Faiz Shakir, then a ThinkProgress staff member, because he asked Hillary Clinton about her stance on the Iraq War. Tanden, of course, is a longtime Clinton loyalist. Shakir is now Sanders’ campaign manager.

“I didn’t slug him, I pushed him,” Tanden told the Times.

So Tanden, who assaulted a journalist because he asked a question she didn’t like, is on MSNBC talking about journalistic independence in order to criticize Sanders.

In 2015, leaked emails showed Tanden censored the staff’s coverage of Israel. Other emails showed Tanden telling Clinton campaign chair John Podesta she would try to get ThinkProgress to change a headline on a story criticizing Clinton for making a “dishonest attack” on Sanders’ health care proposal.

“They are crazy leftists down there,” she wrote of ThinkProgress. The outlet ultimately changed the headline to something more innocuous.

Tanden also seems like a generally miserable boss. For example, she once named an alleged sexual harassment victim in an all-staff meeting. No thank you, please!

It doesn’t even seem like Tanden is committed to building a propaganda network these, days: CAP put ThinkProgress up for sale last month.

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