Posted by Curt on 15 December, 2017 at 7:42 pm. 2 comments already!


“Our record as journalists in covering this Trump story and the Russian story is pretty good,” legendary reporter Carl Bernstein recently claimed. Pretty good? If there’s a major news story over the past 70 years that the American media has botched more often because of bias and wishful thinking, I’d love to hear about it.

Four big scoops recently run by major news organizations—written by top reporters and, presumably, churned through layers of scrupulous editing—turned out to be completely wrong. Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and others reported that special counsel Robert Mueller’s office had subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s records from Deutsche Bank. Trump’s attorney says it hadn’t. ABC reported that candidate Trump had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election. He didn’t (as far as we know). The New York Times ran a story claiming that K.T. McFarland, a former member of the Trump transition team, had acknowledged collusion. She hadn’t. Then, CNN topped off the week by falsely reporting that the Trump campaign had been offered access to hacked Democratic National Committee emails before they were published. It wasn’t.

Forget your routine bias. These were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, all of whom are feeding frenzied expectations about Trump-Russia collusion that have now been internalized by many as indisputable truths. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without their central faulty claims. Yet there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

If we are to accept the special pleadings of journalists, we have to believe these were all honest mistakes. They may be. But a person might then ask: Why is it that every one of the dozens of honest mistakes is prejudiced in the very same way? Why hasn’t there been a single major honest mistake that diminishes the Trump-Russia collusion story? Why is there never an honest mistake that indicts Democrats?

Maybe the problem is that too many people are working backward from a preconception. Maybe newsrooms have too many people who view the world through an identical prism—which is to say they believe he stole the election with the help of Russians. And perhaps the president’s constant lashing out at the media has provoked some newsrooms to treat their professional obligations as a moral crusade rather than a fact-gathering enterprise.

For instance, the CNN reporters who wrote the DNC story, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, contend they had two sources who told them Donald Trump Jr. was offered encryption codes to look at hacked DNC emails. They both must have lied to them about the same date on the same email. CNN says that the duo followed “editorial process” in reporting the piece. This brings three lines of questioning to mind.

First: Do news organizations typically run stories about documents they’ve never authenticated? If so, what other big stories over the past few years have been run based on unauthenticated documents? Can they point to a single story about the Obama administration CNN has written using a similar process? What part of CNN’s editorial guidelines deals with this sort of situation?

Second: Why would two independent sources lie about a date on the email to Trump Jr. if they didn’t want to mislead the public? And how independent could they really be? How many stories regarding the Russian-collusion investigation has CNN run from these same sources?

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