The left-leaning media realized, over the weekend, that it made an error in not being more skeptical of "Empire" star Jussie Smollett's claim that he was attacked by two anti-gay, racist, Trump-supporting Chicago-dwellers back in late January. But instead of taking responsibility, journalists with high profile outlets like CNN and the Associated Press flipped the script, blaming conservatives for "pouncing" and "seizing" on Smollett's misdeeds.
CNN's Brian Stetler was the first to suggest that mainstream media approached the Smollett case with skepticism, telling viewers on Monday that it was "entertainment media" and other online blogs that ran with Smollett's story of being attacked, not reputable sources like, say, CNN.
“I think it was mostly in the celebrity press and among activists and among Twitter people. I think it was a really careful reporting by news organizations. But it all gets lumped in together at the end of the day,” Stetler said.
Stetler was echoing a similar point made on his "Reliable Sources" program Sunday, captured by Mediaite, where he and guests claimed that no mainstream media sources fell for Smollett's evidence-free, unqualified claims. Stetler seemed reticent to acknowledge that few media sources pursued the obvious flaws in Smollett's original story, and that local Chicago media was left to pick up the case, pursuing Smollett's claims and the Chicago Police Department's response for weeks until the story blew wide open last Saturday.
"On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Vox’s Liz Plank emphatically made this point, saying she couldn’t find 'a real reputable media outlet reporting' that the attack was motivated by MAGA or included a statement about 'MAGA country,'" Mediaite discovered. “I couldn’t find one,” Plank said. “We can’t confuse celebrity tweets with the media and the press.”
But Mediaite's Caleb Howe, who captured Plank's quote, ultimately compiled a neat list of mainstream media sources that adopted Smollett's version of events, using terms like "attacked" and "beaten" without qualifying them with terms like "allegedly" or "claims."
From Newsweek, for example:
'EMPIRE' STAR JUSSIE SMOLLETT VICTIM OF HOMOPHOBIC ATTACK— Jason Lemon (@JasonLemon) January 29, 2019
By MAGA Supporters: "We're told when he walked out, someone yelled, 'Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?'" https://t.co/k7wWrh3H86
The list, of course, includes CNN, which reported that Smollett had been "attacked," and The Washington Post, where "Democracy Dies in Darkness."
Today, @brianstelter: "There was a rush to judgment... mostly in the celebrity press... activists... Twitter people. I think it was a really careful reporting by news organizations."— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) February 18, 2019
CNN, January 29: "Empire" actor victim of racist and homophobic assault"https://t.co/43cvuA5QZC pic.twitter.com/Hrar2tXWzI
The Associated Press jumped on the "conservatives pounce" bandwagon Monday morning wth a story of their own, acknowledging that Smollett's story was quickly unraveling, but noting that while the developments left some "baffled" and "outraged," conservatives "seized" on the moment to ... well ... the Associated Press doesn't make that particularly clear.
"Skeptics, including conservative pundits Dinesh D’Souza and Tomi Lahren, seized on the doubts that have arisen," the AP reported. "'And Libs wonder why we don’t believe their BS stories,' Lahren tweeted Saturday. On Sunday, she criticized those who used social media after the attack to push 'the narrative (that) Trump supporters are racist homophobes.'"
So far, though, Smollett's case seems to be falling apart faster than conservatives can adequately "seize" the moment, leaving it difficult to blame right-leaning media for the full affair. By Monday afternoon, new reports emerged, noting Smollett's potential motive in staging the attack, and claiming that Smollett is now refusing to speak to Chicago police.