Last year, McClatchy published two articles claiming that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen went to Prague in 2016 to allegedly pay Russia-linked hackers for stolen Democrat emails. Neither article provided any solid evidence for this claim, outside of “two sources familiar with the matter.”
No other media outlet was able to independently confirm the report, and last Wednesday, Cohen testified under oath that he has never been to Prague or the Czech Republic.
“I’ve never been to Prague,” Cohen said at the congressional hearing. “I’ve never been to the Czech Republic.”
Now, Cohen has lied under oath before, and he is going to jail in part for that reason. But he has also never wavered in his denial that he was in Prague, as McClatchy reported.
Chuck Ross of The Daily Caller reached out to McClatchy on Tuesday to ask if the outlet still stood by its reporting given Cohen’s testimony.
“We stand behind our reporting,” the outlet’s spokeswoman Jeanne Segal said.
Ross previously had received a statement from Robert Mueller’s office regarding media claims of what the special counsel was investigating.
“What I have been telling all reporters is that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate. Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it,” the spokesperson told Ross. “If another outlet reports something, don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”
But instead of following the spokesperson’s advice, other outlets re-reported the McClatchy story for clicks. The Washington Post, according to one of its reporters, “sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty.” As I reported previously, the Post never ran an article about this information.
McClatchy’s first article on the Cohen-Prague claim was published in April 2018 as a way to bolster the dossier compiled on President Donald Trump by ex-British spy Christopher Steele. It said so right in the title: “Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier.”
The second article was published on December 27, 2018, claiming Mueller had evidence that Cohen’s cell phone “pinged” in the “Prague area in late summer 2016.” The same McClatchy reporters who posted the first Cohen-Prague story published the second and admitted they had not seen the electronic record that would prove their story.
As I wrote previously, this aspect of the Steele dossier should have been the easiest to prove. Cohen has provided photos of his passport showing no trip to Prague, Washington Post reporters couldn’t find a single hotel where he would have stayed, and the only “evidence” we have this occurred are two anonymous sources.
Cohen may not be an upstanding citizen, but he has repeatedly denied this claim and no one has been able to produce evidence supporting what should be an easy claim to support. But it doesn’t matter, McClatchy got its clicks and can fall back on the notion that no one has disproven their article with evidence. That's what passes for journalism these days, throwing out a wild claim with no evidence and hoping no one will or can dispute it.