This past week was, without doubt, the most humiliating week American political media have suffered in my life time. I use the word “humiliating” with a bit of trepidation, because if you have no shame you are incapable of being humiliated.
It got off to a start last Friday when ABC’s Brian Ross did a breathless and orgasmic on-air announcement that former national security adviser Mike Flynn was going to testify that Donald Trump, while a candidate, ordered him to make contact with the godless Russkies. We weren’t told about what or to what end but we were assured it was DAMNED IMPORTANT. That story had the half-life of your typical fruit fly. As it turned out, the anonymous source Ross had used had actually meant that president-elect Trump told Flynn to contact the Russians. Quite a different thing. ABC retracted the story, Brian Ross was suspended, and the president of ABC news had a hissy fit.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Bloomberg and Reuters reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for as much as two decades worth of Trump financial documents. This was a shocker as it seemed that Robert Mueller was going directly after Trump and daring him to do anything. I was sucked in (see my post) along with a lot of others. The White House denied it, but, unfortunately White House denials don’t carry a lot of weight anymore (if they ever did). The next day the Wall Steet Journal reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the financial records of people related (in what sense, we don’t know) to Trump.
Then, on Friday, the spit really hit the fan when CNN reported that Donald Trump, Jr., had received the ability to access Wikileaks files nine days before they became public. They subsequently corrected the story to reflect Trump, Jr., got the email the day AFTER the Wikileaks documents were available to the general public. But a lot of troubling questions remain about CNN’s editorial practices.
This is the take by Axios.com for the events:
The media is having a rough week when it comes to reporting on the federal government’s multiple ongoing Russia investigations. Three stories in the past seven days have crumbled under greater scrutiny.
Why it matters: In today’s hyperpolarized world, “fake news” has become a refrain to describe stories that observers on both sides of the spectrum decide that they don’t like. These reporting issues by esteemed media organizations give credence to that ignorance, which further damages the value of insightful, impactful reporting — especially when it comes to one of the biggest, most polarizing stories of our political age: the Russia probe.
This is what the media establishment would have you to believe.
This is President Trump’s take:
Fake News CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake yesterday. They were caught red handed, just like lonely Brian Ross at ABC News (who should be immediately fired for his “mistake”). Watch to see if @CNN fires those responsible, or was it just gross incompetence?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017
In the case of CNN, in particular, there is a pattern of animosity. Take this exposition of CNN’s news chyrons:
But these events, when coupled with the reporting we’ve seen on Trump since Inauguration Day, tell a different story. The pattern is pretty damned clear.
I remember Watergate pretty well, and I don't remember anything like this level of journalistic carelessness back then. The constant stream of 'bombshells' that turn into duds is doing much more to damage the media than anything Trump could manage. https://t.co/SA3Frx4KNE
— Walter Russell Mead (@wrmead) December 8, 2017
I was a reporter in Washington during all of Watergate and I totally agree with this. https://t.co/48qCFlzdlN
— Brit Hume (@brithume) December 9, 2017
When all media mistakes go in only one direction, they cease looking like mistakes. https://t.co/xO8mqzZloh
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 8, 2017
The media can go back to whining whenever they hear “Fake News” used but this week proved pretty conclusively that the fake stories do exist and they all cut in exactly one direction.