Confirmation Bias, Anonymous Sources, And Leaks: What Do You Believe About Seth Rich And Trump's Classified Blabbing?
On Monday evening, The Washington Post broke a story based on anonymous White House officials stating that President Trump had dumped highly classified information to the Russians in a White House meeting. The Left immediately jumped on the news without waiting for verification, and even as the White House denied it and launched into a campaign against “leakers.”
Every major mainstream media outlet in the country led with the report.
The same evening, Fox DC 5 reported that a private investigator with a shaky history, Rod Wheeler, had revealed that his investigation into the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich “shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks. I do believe that the answers to who murdered Seth Rich sits on his computer on a shelf at the DC police or FBI headquarters.” Later that night, Fox News reported that an anonymous federal investigator “said 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee leaders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016, were transferred from Rich to [director of WikiLeaks Gavin] MacFadyen.” The family denied the veracity of the reports and slammed Wheeler for violating confidentiality, adding that he was paid by third party sources.
Seth Rich family spokesperson: "no evidence," "no emails" suggesting Wikileaks links. Comes day after story claiming family PI found links pic.twitter.com/vmp2oQpcG2— Alex Campbell (@alexcampbell) May 16, 2017
The FBI has apparently not been asked about the allegations.
Right-wing outlets chose to lead with the news.
Once again, we’ve seen how two news bubbles lead partisans to believe only what they want to believe.
If you’re on the Left, you likely didn’t wait to immediately leap to the worst possible conclusion about Trump’s meeting with the Russians. You likely didn’t even wait for the White House’s denials. And you likely ignored the Wheeler report because he’s a dicey quantity and the family denied his revelations.
If you’re on the Right, you likely believe that the Trump-revealed-classified-information story is “fake news,” a media gotcha, and yet more evidence of nefarious Obama holdovers in the intelligence community leaking to discredit the White House; you likely also believe that Rich was probably murdered for divulging information to WikiLeaks.
Both stories were based in large part on anonymous sourcing, and both were ripped for content garnered through "leaks"; both were denied by key actors. But anonymous sourcing allows you to choose what to believe, blaming leaks allows you to blame whom you want, and denials provide you cover for both.
Here’s where we now stand on both stories. The Trump administration is plagued by leaks, and that’s not a good thing – but the underlying facts about Trump’s communications with Russia are devastating if true, and Trump seems to have confirmed them. Meanwhile, we have nothing to confirm the Rich story yet, beyond the anonymous FBI investigator – and the family rejection of the story.
Both stories could be true; both could be false; one could be true, and the other false. But it’s worth checking your biases if you’re jumping to conclusions based on your own political predilections in looking at them.