This is not a good look at all for USA Today.
The background here is that they received an op-ed from Margot Cleveland, a senior contributor to The Federalist, on the failures of the media over the Mueller report. Having written for them before, she turned in a piece that would run on Monday subject to a fact-check.
When news broke on Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had submitted his report on the Russia-collusion investigation to Attorney General William Barr, and that no further charges would be forthcoming, I penned an op-ed and submitted it to USA Today, which had published my work several times, including as recently as last November.
To her surprise, it was rejected for a lack of “reliable” sourcing because she cited The Federalist and Andrew McCarthy’s brilliant (and proven correct) work over at National Review.
Sunday evening, after reviewing my submission, Deputy Editorial Page Editor David Mastio replied via e-mail that the paper would publish it the next day, pending a routine fact check. I noted that I was happy to provide additional sources if needed. I then double-checked all of my supporting references and confirmed that they were solid, but sent on two additional links to congressional documents anyway, thinking they would be quicker to verify than the references I had provided.
Then came a shocker from Mastio: USA Today had instead decided to reject the submission because I cited The Federalist and National Review.
“Going forward, assertions of fact need to be backed up with mainstream media sources or original documents,” Mastio wrote. “Links to National Review or [T]he Federalist (or similar sites on the left) are not reliable.”
It’s important to note that The Federalist did some of the best work of any publication over the course of the last two years in regards to the Mueller investigation. While often being called conspiracy theorists by mindless “journalists” in the mainstream, the great investigative work they did has largely been vindicated now.
Worse, USA Today has previously and recently published op-eds citing The Federalist and had no problem with it. Mastio is simply coming up with a new, arbitrary rule in order to keep this latest op-ed out of the paper.
Never mind that USA Today just last month published an opinion article that directly cited The Federalist.
Cleveland responded to Mastio by pointing out how wrong his reasoning was for the decision.
“The entire point of my Op-Ed is that the media ignored the true scandal,” I fired back to Mastio. “And had your fact checkers bothered to look at the articles, they would have discovered that every statement of fact was backed-up with the original sources issued by the government.”
There’s a lot to point out here.
First, the idea that “mainstream” sources that continually screwed the Mueller story up are somehow more reliable that a right-wing publication that consistently got it right is nonsensical. It’s the kind of beltway back-patting that led to such massive failures regarding Trump and Russia in the first place. Just because CNN is in the byline does not make it reliable. Quite the opposite. Facts are facts and should not be discounted just because someone doesn’t like the source.
As Cleveland points out in her piece, there’s a lot of irony in them rejecting an op-ed for not citing mainstream sources. How can you cite people who got a story so wrong? If someone at The New York Times had done the work Andrew McCarthy or Mollie Hemingway did, instead of peddling baseless conspiracy theories, maybe they’d be cited? They didn’t though. Cleveland’s now rejected piece was all about the blind spot of the media when it comes to reporting and here’s USA Today showing that blind spot still exists in spades.
As if all this wasn’t damaging enough to USA Today’s feeble reputation, they wanted to make sure you know just how biased they are. Guess what they printed in place of Cleveland’s op-ed?
Yes, that’s correct. They printed another Russian Truther piece by Never Trumper Tom Nichols. You can’t make this stuff up.
A second delicious irony came when I read the opinion article USA Today did publish on Monday—Never Trump Russian expert Tom Nichols’s op-ed entitled “Even after Mueller, we still don’t know what’s really going on with Trump and Russia.” Nichols’s opinion piece had nary a cite, but suggested as a real possibility that “[t]he president’s exoneration ironically rests entirely on Mueller’s caution and prudence.”
Apparently the trick to pass muster with the mainstream media is to declare by fiat, instead of citing National Review or The Federalist.
INSANE: USA Today‘s @DavidMastio rejected a piece on media’s Russia failure because it was sourced to places that got the story right, not the “mainstream” ones that failed. In its place, he ran another Russia truther piece. https://t.co/qATXbnr7Op
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) March 28, 2019
Not a good look here, @DavidMastio. Banning links to outlets that got the Trump-Russia story right in order to protect the “mainstream” outlets that got it wrong isn’t journalism. It’s pure hackery. https://t.co/n4k9cJAjku
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 28, 2019
What’s readily apparent is that the mainstream media have learned absolutely nothing from their failures regarding Trump, Russia, and the Mueller report. They aren’t going to change or have any introspection. They are going to just keep doing what they do. In a way, we should be thankful the media continue to operate this way instead of attempting to hide their biases better. At least we know and can make sound judgements based on their behavior.