“Cokie’s Law,” named for the condescending and compromised reporter Cokie Roberts, can be summed up thusly: “It doesn't matter if it is true, it is what people are talking about, so I have to talk about it as if it were true.”
Cokie’s Law was inspired by this comment from its namesake: "At this point, it doesn't much matter whether she said it or not because it's become part of the culture. I was at the beauty parlor yesterday and this was all anyone was talking about."
“Here’s how it works,” John Cole wrote. “Obama says something, Republicans completely lie about it, the media notes the lie is catching on without ever actually calling it a lie, the Democrats have to waste resources and respond to the lie, Republicans double down, this sucks the life out of everything else for a couple weeks, and in 10 years this will be conventional wisdom that Obama called Americans lazy, just like Al Gore claimed to invent the internet and the rest of the bullshit that wingnuts have adopted as received truths (snow in November refutes climate change, the more you cut taxes the more government revenue you raise, if a bombing campaign does not make people like you, it means you didn’t bomb hard enough or your targeting was off, liberals lost Viet Nam, waterboarding isn’t torture, etc.). We’re so fucked as a nation."
The online pundit Bluegal elaborated: “It’s the idea that if George Will says that Ebola is ‘in the air,” well then we have to discuss that as if it’s a real thing. If Phyllis Schlafly says that Ebola is being sent here by Obama to get back at us for Africa, we have to report on that. That’s what reporting is.”
Cokie’s Law is a particularly shameless example of false balance, which is the greatest fault in contemporary American news coverage. Also referred to as false equivalence, it’s a bias that lets reporters present an issue as being balanced between opposing viewpoints while ignoring the overwhelming weight of evidence and fact on one side. “Both Siderism” is another variation of this intellectual scam.
Paul Loop put it this way, explaining Politico, CNN, the news networks, the Sunday shows and the corporate-owned punditocracy in general: “When you assert that ’both sides are equally to blame,’ and they are obviously NOT equally to blame after a simple objective analysis, you are essentially covering for the side that deserves all the blame. In Politico's case, it's beyond obvious by now that putting lipstick on the conservative pig is an essential part of its mission.”