There need be no doubt anymore: America’s mainstream news media hypes fake news — and that’s a fact.
This past week was disastrous for the press. A slew of fake stories rained down, pushed by anxious anchormen placed in powerful posts. And we want to note before we go on, that ALL of this happened in a single week.
On Friday December 1, ABC News reported that former national security advisor Michael Flynn was ready to testify that Donald Trump, while still a candidate for president, directed him to contact Russian officials. That would’ve been a big no-no. But it wasn’t true. The network waited most of the day to issue a “clarification” that said president-elect Trump directed Flynn to reach out to the Russians — a huge difference, as incoming administrations routinely begin communications with foreign leaders.
The stock market plunged on the “news,” dropping 350 points. A day later, the reporter responsible for the story, Brian Ross, was suspended for four weeks and the network said he would no longer cover President Trump.
On Monday, CNN’s Jim Acosta, who is trying to become a star by berating Trump at every turn (and not by, say, being a damn good reporter), said, “When journalists are attacked, journalists have to resist.” That rings of the Democratic Party’s mantra to “resist” (and we’ll note that that’s not at all what good journalism is about). To Acosta and others who regularly cover the White House, this is what “journalism” is today.
On Tuesday, Reuters and Bloomberg, two left-leaning wire services that have bashed Trump from the outset, reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records on Trump and his family members. But that wasn’t true, either. The Wall Street Journal later reported that the subpoenas actually didn’t target Trump and his family, but rather “people or entities close to Mr. Trump.” Big difference (or as Trump would say, “yuuuuuge”).
Then on Friday, CNN reported that Donald Trump Jr. and senior Trump campaign officials — possibly even Trump himself — received an email on September 4, 2016, directing them to what CNN said were unreleased WikiLeaks documents that may have been hacked from the Democratic National Committee. That, too, would have been a giant story, but it was all wrong — again.
The date was wrong — and the date was the whole story. Turns out the email was sent on September 14. See, WikiLeaks dumped a trove of documents on September 13, so someone sending Trump Jr. an email on the 14th — the day after the dump — means that someone was simply alerting him to the fact that there were documents out there, publicly available.
BONUS: On Saturday, a Washington Post reporter tweeted out a photo of a rally Trump was holding in Florida, which showed a half-empty Pensacola Bay Center. But the photo was taken long before the president spoke — when the entire arena was packed to the gills.
But let’s stick with Friday and the CNN story. At 11 a.m., “The Most Trusted Name In News” did a 13-minute report on the WikiLeaks email, with reporters and anchors breathlessly detailing the ramifications. Under a blaring chiron of “BREAKING NEWS,” anchor Kate Bouldwin opened the segment with this declaration: “More emails, more problems for Donald Trump Jr.”
The network cut to reporters in the field, showed elaborate flow charts, and had two bald-headed “experts” explain what it all meant. See for yourself (it really is amazing how far CNN went to hype a false story):
Within minutes, other “news” organizations claimed to have independently confirmed the story, and reported it on air and on their websites, including CBS News and MSNBC. The story snowballed, being shared across social media and leading each hour’s newcast on cable networks. Not until nearly five hours later did the CNN reporter responsible for the story, Manu Raju, post a correction on Twitter:
Another talking head at CNN said Raju would face no disciplinary action.
As it turns out, Raju would later say on CNN that he never even saw the email, but only heard descriptions of it from “two sources.”
But it was all too late. The story had exploded across the internet, and there’s no way to know how many people who heard the original report ever saw the dramatic correction, which completely negated its importance.
Inside the Beltway, speculation swirled that the reliable “sources” were Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, or perhaps their staffers, as the committee has access to Trump Jr.’s emails. So that begs the question: Did the sources knowingly plant a false story with not one but several news agencies, all of which simply ran with it, despite seeing no evidence whatsoever that their accounts were factual? How did so many networks and websites get the date wrong — all with the same September 4 date, mind you if they were independently gathering facts for their own stories?
Trump lit into CNN.
Trump is exactly right. Why won’t CNN take punitive action action against its reporters that got the story so wrong? And why doesn’t CNN simply expose the fraudsters who supplied the network with the phony story in the first place? CNN is under no obligation protect its sources — the story was wrong!
What’s extraordinary now is the extent to which news agencies that hate Trump will go to damage his presidency. So blinded with rage and hate is the media now, that they will run with stories without even checking to see if they’re true. And other networks and news agencies simply pick them up, claiming to have gotten independent confirmation on them (you know they didn’t).
The erroneous reports may have been mistakes from trusted sources — but in that case, certainly there needs to be consequences. Or, those reporting the phony story may well have known that it was false but tossed it out there anyway. Either way, there needs to be some sort of investigation — by the news agency at least — to determine what went so terribly wrong.
CNN’s Acosta has called on journalists to “resist.” But it’s his very network that supports exactly what Trump has been saying, that CNN often serves up “fake news.”
If Acosta wants to protect “journalism,” perhaps he should call on his network to explain how it got the story wrong. Short of that, there’s now far more weight under Trump’s charge than CNN’s sanctimonious stance that journalism is under attack by a rogue president.