That Biden is in a state of mental decline is another example of the gap between what we know is true—and what we feel comfortable saying out loud.
“The Biden debacle is just the latest example of the gap between what many of us believe to be true, because we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and what the ‘arbiters’ of truth allow us to say.” (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Joe Nocera: Mind the Gap

Explaining the chasm between what we know is true—and what we feel comfortable saying out loud.

I was in my car, listening to Morning Joe on SiriusXM, on the morning of June 4, the day The Wall Street Journal published a story documenting what we all saw Thursday night: President Joe Biden “slipping,” as the headline put it.

In addition to quotes, both anonymous and on the record, about Biden’s mental acuity, the article detailed three meetings during which the president’s “level of engagement was uneven.” The Journal quoted a participant at one of the meetings saying, “You couldn’t be there and not feel uncomfortable. I’ll just say that.”

And how did the hosts and guests on Morning Joe react to this well-reported story with its wealth of telling details? With venom. Instead of acknowledging that it might have some validity, they derided the article. “This does have the feeling of Trump acolytes laundering their attacks through a reputable, prestigious news organization,” said co-host Willie Geist. 

“This was a classic, classic hit piece, probably ordered up by the 93-year-old, fifth-time married Rupert Murdoch over the weekend,” added Morning Joe regular Mike Barnicle.

In fact, it was anything but a hit piece. Rather, it was the product of journalism’s essential function: finding out the truth, and then bringing that truth to the public. Indeed, according to the Journal, Biden’s problems—problems most elderly people face sooner or later—were not some kind of new phenomenon. One of the meetings the Journal recounted took place 14 months ago, in May 2023.

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