Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Do The Elite Media Love Michelle Rhee?

I've wondered this - for being such a controversial figure, why does Michelle Rhee get such adoring press?

Considering this cheating scandal has been following her for two years now, she's managed to make lots of public and media appearances without ever being asked "Ms. Rhee, why won't you come clean on these allegations?"

She's also managed to avoid questions about the alleged sexual misconduct her husband, Kevin Johnson, former NBA star and current mayor of Sacramento, engaged in at his charter school and just what actions she took to help those allegations go away.

It's difficult to imagine other public figures with the stink of two different scandals swirling around them avoiding press and media scrutiny

And yet, Michelle Rhee has consistently made public appearances and gone on TV without ever being called to account for either of these scandals.

The press, for whatever reasons, seems to like her and give her the benefit of the doubt over these things.

Michael Tomasky wrote back in 2011 that part of the reason why Rhee gets such uncritical treatment from the elite press is because they see her as one of their own:

That's it, in a nutshell. She's one of them. Or us, whatever, although I didn't get within a light year of the Ivy League when I was young, as you know. But this is the story. I've met Rhee, once. She presents well. She dresses well. She seems, and I suppose is, refined. You could imagine meeting her at a cocktail party and discussing the latest issue of The New Yorker with her, or Jonathan Franzen, or whether it'll be The Social Network or The King's Speech.

Union officials? Please. They were plaid shirts, polyester ties, thick glasses. They went to SUNY New Paltz, or small and obscure Catholic schools. There was a time when these descriptors applied to journalists, too, and I guess they still do regionally, but not in the elite press. Hence, the identification has been almost entirely with Rhee.

I do think elitism is one of the reasons why so many journalists, especially in the national media, identify with Ivy League education reform elites like Rhee and Kopp over working teachers and identify with the Ivy League-laden Teach For America over, say, the latest graduating class of education majors at Hunter College.

They see themselves as part of the same fabric of meritocratic excellence that Rhee and Kopp like to wrap themselves in.

That that fabric of meritocratic excellence is a sham with both Rhee and Kopp and their education reforms doesn't seem to bother the elite journalists any.

They just keep printing the hype over Rhee and Kopp/TFA.

I also think they like the drama and sensationalism Rhee brings to her work - the broom to sweep out the "bad teachers," the bee she supposedly ate during her teaching days, the excitement she brings to firing people (as in the time she happily fired a principal on camera for Frontline.)

You know the saying in journalism - If it bleeds, it leads, and there sure is a lot of blood around Michelle Rhee, though rarely her own.

I also think many of them want to believe her jive (and Kopp's jive too) - that class and poverty don't matter, that if children from high-poverty backgrounds are just given "great teachers," they can overcome anything.

Let's be frank - journalism, especially political journalism, resembles WWF wrestling more than anything else these days.

Journalists pick the winners and losers beforehand and then run with the script - Gore is a bore, Bush is a "regular" guy, Rhee is a "warrior woman" out to fight entrenched interests like teachers and unions (as Oprah might say.)

They pick someone like Rhee to back because

a) she gives them lots of drama to write about and

b) she promotes a vision of society they, recipients of the same cultural and financial help she has received, want to believe in - that hard work and merit are what matter, not who you know or what family you have been born into.

Will they now turn on one of their own or will they continue to protect her as they have done so far?

Make no mistake about this - Rhee has been protected by the corporatists in power like Barack Obama and Arne Duncan as well as the wealthy backers of her reforms.

But she has also been protected by the elite media.

For Rhee to be taken down by this scandal, they have to turn on one of their own and start reporting truth.

Good luck getting them to do that.

Diane Ravitch notes there is already a ho-hum factor setting in on the cheating memo.

The likelihood is, the elite press will continue to protect her and she will be back bashing teachers in no time.


  1. Another bombshell over at The Answer Sheet.

  2. And the Ivy League doesn't mean squat. It isn't proof of intellect or much of anything. It is mainly proof somebody was skilled enough at getting connections to help them be noticed. Few people ever bother applying to be admitted to those schools, preferring as they do being relatively close to home to go to school.

    Most people in this country don't care about the Ivy League, and this shows how utterly clueless people outside of the Beltway are. Going to the "right school" doesn't mean you are meritorious or smart or anything else. The only reason people even attend those "top schools" is because those schools were traditionally schools of the rich and powerful. They aren't any better than any other school. People who attend those schools are merely buying the connections those schools provide.

    1. I agree, Susan. The Best and the Brightest from the Ivy League brought us the Vietnam War, collateralized debt obligations and VAM.

      If that's the kind of stuff the "smart" people hoist upon society, we could use a few more "stupid" people.

  3. Uncommon Core RejectedApril 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Common Core invalidated in Illinois.

    1. The humanists in the Great War Against The Common Core are beginning to make some headway as conservatives and libertarians wake up to what the agenda behind it is and liberals and progressives begin to see beyond their Obama glasses and realize what the agenda is too.