Posted by Curt on 31 March, 2022 at 11:08 am. 95 comments already!


by Glenn Greenwald

On March 30 of last year, The New York Times published an article that was treated as a bombshell by the political class. Citing exclusively anonymous sources — “three people briefed on the matter” — the Paper of Record announced that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him.”
The headline chosen by Times editors was as inflammatory and provocative as possible: “Matt Gaetz Is Said to Face Justice Dept. Inquiry Over Sex With an Underage Girl.” The paper, high up in the article, emphasized what grave crimes these were: “The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.” The article was extremely light on any actual evidence regarding Gaetz, instead devoting paragraph after paragraph to guilt-by-association tactics regarding “a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.”
Only in the seventh paragraph — well below the headline casting him as a pedophile and sex trafficker — did the Times bother to note: “No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.” Exactly one year after publication of that reputation-destroying article, this remains true: while the DOJ may one day formally accuse him, Gaetz has not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a single crime which The New York Times stapled onto his forehead.
From the start, the GOP Congressman vehemently denied these accusations. And he went further than mere denials: he claimed that these allegations arose as part of a blackmail and extortion scheme to extract $25 million from his family in exchange for not publicizing these accusations, which his father promptly reported to the FBI. While many scoffed at Gaetz’s story as fantastical and bizarre, that part of his story was vindicated last August when a Florida developer and convicted felon “was arrested on a charge that he tried to extort $25 million from the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz in exchange for a presidential pardon that would shut down a high-profile, criminal sex-trafficking investigation into the Republican congressman.” In November, that developer, Stephen Alford, pled guilty to trying to extort $25 million from Rep. Gaetz and his family.
In other words, the only component of this story that has thus far been confirmed — a full year after the NYT first trumpeted it — is the part of Gaetz’s denial where he insisted that all this arose from an extortion attempt. Yet none of that mattered, and it still does not matter. As I wrote in the aftermath of the Times story, designed to warn of the perils of assuming someone’s guilt without any due process: “That Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is a pedophile, a sex trafficker, and an abuser of women who forces them to prostitute themselves and use drugs with him is a widespread assumption in many media and political circles.” CNN celebrated the fact that one of Gaetz’s arch political enemies — the liberal icon Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — said that “as the mother of daughters, the charges certainly are sickening.”
In sum, Matt Gaetz has now spent a full year with millions of people believing he is guilty of pedophilia and sex trafficking even though he has never had the opportunity to confront witnesses, evaluate evidence or contest his guilt in a court of law because he has never been charged. Instead, he has been found guilty by media-led mob justice, all from unethical and possibly illegal leaks by “people briefed on the matter.” As a result, not only did Gaetz become radioactive due to crimes that have never been proven, but so too did anyone who argued that he is entitled to due process before being assumed guilty. For writing that April article and producing an accompanying video advocating the need for due process before assuming someone’s guilt, I spent two days trending on Twitter due to widespread accusations that, like Gaetz, I too must be a pedophile who was only defending him because I am guilty of the same crimes. That is the core evil of mob justice: it triggers the worst instincts in mob participants, who become drunk with righteous rage and bereft of reason.
In a separate article and video report in December of last year, I outlined the reasons prosecutors are ethically and often legally barred from leaking the pendency of criminal investigations as appears to have been done to Gaetz. It is precisely because it is common that a person who is the subject of a criminal investigation never ends up being charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes due to a lack of evidence to support an indictment or guilty verdict. Leaks thus have the effect, and often the intent, of destroying someone’s reputation, convicting them of repellent crimes in the court of public opinion that will never be brought in a court of law, thus relieving the state of the requirement to prove the crime and depriving the accused the opportunity to exonerate themselves.
These vital journalistic and ethical principles clearly apply to Gaetz but not only to him. In 2019 and 2020 in Brazil, I worked with colleagues for eighteen months on a multi-article exposé which revealed widespread corruption and wrongdoing on the part of the most powerful Brazilian prosecutors and judges. The misconduct was varied and severe, but one of the key unethical tactics they used was strategic and selective leaks about investigations against their adversaries. They would frequently use friendly media outlets to plant stories that a particular politician, activist or business person who opposed them was being “investigated” for some grave crime involving bribes or money laundering.
As these dirty prosecutors and judges in Brazil intended, these leaks would destroy the reputation of their targets overnight. Their allied media outlets would trumpet these accusations as if they were proven fact. The public assumed that their targets were guilty. Many lost their jobs, while others had their political careers ended. Yet so often, no charges were ever brought based on these leaks. That is because there was little to no evidence that the targets of these leaks had actually committed any crimes. As we revealed in August, 2019 as part of that investigative series:

Brazil’s Chief prosecutor overseeing its sweeping anti-corruption probe, Deltan Dallagnol, lied to the public when he vehemently denied in a 2017 interview with BBC Brasil that his prosecutorial task force leaked secret information about investigations to achieve its ends.
In fact, in the months preceding his false claim, Dallagnol was a participant in secret chats exclusively obtained by The Intercept, in which prosecutors plotted to leak information to the media with the goal of manipulating suspects by making them believe that their indictment was imminent even when it was not, in order to intimidate them into signing confessions that implicated other targets of the investigation.

The abuse inherent in such leaks is self-evident. When large corporate media outlets publish or broadcast innuendo from prosecutors by framing it as “X is being investigated for Grave Crimes Y and Z,” the public naturally believes that where there is smoke, there must be fire. In the midst of our exposés, Sérgio Dávila, the editor-in-chief of Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha of São Paulo, apologized for this practice in an article by its ombudsman:

In the evaluation of the [editor], the space given by the newspaper to the allegations leaked by the prosecutor is deserving of criticism. “If I had to revisit the case and do the coverage again, I know that’s not possible, maybe I’d rethink the space we’ve given, headlines after headlines… So, yes, I do that self-criticism.”
Dávila spoke … about a common procedure not only in Folha, but in all major newspapers: the headlines produced from [accusations made during investigations] along the lines of “so and so” said that [a politician] “did such a thing, according to an investigation by Operation Car Wash”.
Much of this content, however, ended up being reviewed or invalidated by the courts, without a new headline to make amends.

In other words, media outlets frequently blared in headlines any accusatory leaks made by prosecutors and investigators, ruining the reputations of countless people. But when no charges were brought, or courts dismissed the accusations for lack of evidence, the paper or news broadcast rarely returned to tell their readers and viewers that the accusation had not been proven. Therein lies the grave danger, the clear injustice, of accusing people of crimes through media leaks and forcing them to live with a cloud over their head with no fair process to defend themselves.

One could make a similar argument about the ongoing FBI criminal probe into Hunter Biden’s international business and tax activities. On Monday, we produced a new video report on what is clearly one of the most egregious disinformation campaigns in modern American political history: the union of the CIA, corporate media and Big Tech to spread the outright lie in the weeks before the election that the incriminating materials from the Hunter Biden archive were not real but instead were “Russian disinformation” — meaning fake documents forged by the Kremlin.
As we have repeatedly reported, the evidence that this was a lie, and that the archive was real, was overwhelming from the start. But six months ago, a reporter from Politico, Ben Schreckinger, published a book, “The Bidens,” that contained ample proof that the key materials on the laptop were authentic. The media outlets that spread that lie in the weeks before the election simply ignored that book.
Two weeks ago, the outlet they unironically regard as the Paper of Record — The New York Times — published an article on the FBI probe into Hunter Biden which, in their words, relied on emails “obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.” On Monday, The Washington Post published a lengthy article on the Bidens’ potentially corrupt business activities in China that also relied on materials from the laptop, which that paper also said it confirmed.
Yet not a single media outlet that spread the pre-election “Russian disinformation” lie has acknowledged any of this, let alone retracted their pre-election lies.

Read more

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x