January 20, 2021

“The best inaugural address I ever heard,” said Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

“His aides promised a speech and a presidency that he would focus on healing, this speech was the first step in that,” said CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell.

“It was an invitation to decency, to civility,” CNN’s Abby Phillip said.

All in all, President Joe Biden’s inaugural speech drew rave reviews from journalists on Wednesday.

While Biden’s speech touched on numerous topics — unity, democracy, COVID-19, to name a few — those of us who observe the media couldn’t help but hear Biden’s subtle and not-so-subtle remarks about the media. Specifically, Biden called out the media who helped perpetuate the lies of Donald Trump over the past four years.

In his speech, Biden said:

“Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

That line about “lies told for power and for profit” surely was directed not only at Trump, but at the media companies that have enabled Trump during his presidency.

Biden continued, “Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand, like my dad, they lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage? Thinking about their families. About what comes next. I promise you, I get it.

“But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you or worship the way you do or don’t get their news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.”

There was nothing hidden in that message.

“I think particularly for all of us as journalists,” O’Donnell said, “it was resonant to hear the president say, ‘This is about defending the truth and defeating the lies.’ Reminding us about responsibility in that.”

And Wallace said that passage was something “the media must note.” He added, “Whether it’s us on the air, on cable or broadcast, whether it’s us on social media, on our Twitter accounts, understanding that we have to deal from facts, from the truth.”

Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. For the latest media news and analysis, delivered free to your inbox each and every weekday morning, sign up for his Poynter Report newsletter.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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