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Atlantic Editor Defends Using Anonymous Sources For Trump Hit Piece. Back In 2016, He Blasted Using Anonymous Sources Targeting Him.

By  Emily Zanotti
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves to audiences as Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg looks on after a discussion during the 2018 Atlantic Festival October 2, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Sunday, appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with host Brian Stelter, Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic, which has been slammed for running a hit piece on President Trump based on anonymous sources, blamed Trump, claiming, “We all have to use anonymous sources, especially in a climate in which the President of the United States tries to actively intimidate journalism organizations and people who provide information to journalism organizations.”

Stelter asked about the piece, which claimed Trump had made disparaging remarks about the U.S. military but whose accuracy was then fiercely disputed by numerous figures within the Trump administration, “Why grant anonymity in the first place?” He continued obsequiously, “Help viewers at home understand how this works. Obviously these sources are not anonymous to you; you know their names; you know why they are credible, and you’re attaching your own credibility to them by granting them anonymity.”

Goldberg replied, “Right. Of course, And as Jennifer Griffin on Fox said, and I think this was a great quote, she said, ‘These are not people who are anonymous to me.’ I mean, yes, we know, if you’re a good reporter and you’re gonna quote someone anonymously, you better have faith in what they’re saying. It’s a complicated thing as you well know; we all have to use anonymous sources, especially in a climate in which the President of the United States tries to actively intimidate journalism organizations and people who provide information to journalism organizations. But the formula is simple: What you do is you have to say, ‘Does the public’s right to know or need to know a particular piece of information outweigh the morally complicated and ambiguous qualities of anonymous sourcing?’”

“And so most of us, most of the time, don’t rely on anonymous sourcing for most things, because there are difficulties there,’ Goldberg claimed. “But in this climate, with information that we judge the voters to need, we are going to use anonymous sources because we think the public has a right to know. Especially when you have four, five, six sources, primary sources, corroborating sources, telling you the same thing.”

Ironically, after the publication of the well-known May 2016 article in The New York Times Magazine in which former Obama administration Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes essentially admitted he had manipulated the media regarding the Iran nuclear deal, Goldberg attacked David Samuels, the freelancer who had written the article, for writing, “For those in need of more traditional-seeming forms of validation, handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative.”

Goldberg wrote, “I did not find this mention of my name amusing at all, because Samuels is making a serious, unsourced, and unsubstantiated allegation against me in an otherwise highly credible publication (one for which I happened to work, in fact).”

This is not the first time Goldberg has targeted Trump over his criticism of the mainstream media; in June 2017, he spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival and snapped, “What I worry about more than anything else is that there are people in the country who don’t understand that this is a cynical reality TV game and are going to hear over and over again from the president, that the reporters, journalists are enemies of the state. And someone, God forbid, but someone is going to do something violent against journalists in a large way, and then, I know where the fault lies. We’re heading in this direction and it’s quite frightening.”

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