Like the Obama administration, the media never really fess up to being wrong. Take, for example, The New York Times. The Times reported on the day after the terrorist assault on the Benghazi embassy that “protesters angry over an amateurish American-made video denouncing Islam attacked the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday, killing a State Department officer …” More than a month later, on October 16, The Times printed a correction, not to the report that demonstrators protesting a video attacked the embassy, but to a statement in the article that had “described incompletely an Islamic profession of faith.” No mention of the fact that the paper got it totally wrong on the central point of the original story.
Eventually the media are forced to change their story but, rather than confess that they had no idea what they were talking or writing about, they pass the buck to their sources, or they try to convince us that getting to the truth is an evolving process we readers and listeners get to witness — from pure speculation to truth right before our eyes and ears — with speculation often standing as truth long after it has been proven wrong.
Presidential passing of the buck and media reporting of speculation as fact go hand in hand. The president encourages and then relies on the speculation where it gives him political cover. The media presses administration officials to speculate so that they can satisfy their readers’ and listeners’ demand for answers.
In 1948, Harry Truman would have had none of it, and The Tribune was surely red-faced with embarrassment. Today it seems that neither the president nor the media are held to account.
Jim Huffman is the dean emeritus of Lewis & Clark Law School, the co-founder of Northwest Free Press and a member of the Hoover Institution’s De Nault Task Force on Property Rights, Freedom and Prosperity.