The first public impeachment hearing into Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion was a serious affair, filled with details of phone calls and meetings and Ukraine’s struggle against Russia. Even House Republicans didn’t try too hard to turn it into a circus, restricting themselves to barking conspiracy theories and yelling accusations at the witnesses, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and Ambassador Bill Taylor. It was on one side a serious attempt to find out what Trump did or did not do, and on the other side an attempt to distract at least lacking in flagrant stunts. So what’s the media’s take? Boooooring!
"Consequential, but dull: Trump impeachment hearings begin without a bang," Reuters headlined its analysis. “Democratic lawmakers tried their hand at reality television with mixed results,” wrote Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle, ignoring the fact that, uh, Democrats weren’t going for reality television here. They even went to Eric Trump’s Twitter for support for their overall read—Trump’s less-prominent adult son tweeted that the hearing was “horribly boring.” Which, by the way, was a Republican talking point, part of an effort to get the public to tune out. And these seasoned Reuters political reporters bit on it straight! Good job, guys.
NBC News offered a slightly more serious rendition of the same overall take: "Plenty of substance but little drama on first day of impeachment hearings." According to Jonathan Allen, “[T]he first round felt more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than opening night for a hit Broadway musical.”
Here’s the thing: If the hearing had been filled with drama and reality TV/Broadway musical flourishes, these very same reporters likely would have complained that it was unserious and showed that Democrats were overreaching and that Republican ranting about a “witch hunt” was accurate. But Republicans decided that the winning message for Wednesday was “boring,” and the media went right along with that, too, rather than focusing on any of the hearing’s big moments (which, uh, existed). Funny how that works.