All The Fake News That’s Fit To Print: Media Missteps In The Trump Era
A hostile and hysterical media, determined to keep the Russian narrative alive, has done so at the high cost of further damaging their already tarnished credibility.
During the presidential campaign, The New York Times‘ Jim Rutenberg, wrote that “working journalists” who believe President Trump is a “demagogue,” playing into the nation’s “worst racist and nationalistic tendencies,” must throw out “textbook American journal[ism]” and cover him in a way he’s never been covered before. Rutenberg continued, writing that if “[journalists] view a Trump presidency as potentially dangerous, than your reporting is going to reflect that.”
In that case, there is an awful lot of journalists that view President Donald Trump as dangerous. The problem the establishment media has had is finding the evidence that he is dangerous. For them, it hasn’t been so much about finding evidence as it has been about sustaining a narrative at any cost. The triumph of ideology over journalistic integrity has wreaked havoc on the media’s credibility with the American public, a credibility they will find difficult to recover.
Here are some examples of misreporting, retractions, and overall screw-ups from the establishment media during Trump’s first six months in office.
Just a few weeks after Trump transition team official Anthony Scaramucci wrote a piece on CNN calling the Russia controversy an “anti-Trump witch hunt,” he found himself embroiled right in the middle of it. CNN later published a now retracted article tying Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under a Congressional investigation. The retraction occurred after CNN realized it could not vouch for the claims made based on anonymous sourcing, forcing the three journalists responsible for the article’s release to resign.
The resignations come on the heels of CNN firing hosts Kathy Griffin and Reza Aslan for anti-Trump stunts and tirades of their own, betraying the impartiality of the network.
The recent release of a Project Veritas undercover video showing a CNN producer calling the Russia-Trump probe “mostly bullshit,” and admitting that Trump is correct to call the probe a “witch hunt,” sends what’s left of CNN’s credibility into a nosedive.
The Washington Post:
Seduced with the Russian narrative, on Dec. 30, The Post published a story that claimed “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid.” Turns out the the story was completely false, after an investigation officials determined the “Russian hacking” was malware found on one laptop triggered by an employee checking his Yahoo email. The malware had no connections to Russia or Russian hackers at all. Days later The Post was forced to issue a new article correcting their original story.
That same month, The Post reported on a story sourced from CrowdStrike, a firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hack of their email servers. Their findings concluded that there was link “between the group that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Russia’s military intelligence arm.” By March, CrowdStrike was forced to revise and retract the statements made about Russian hacking following a report released showing they “misrepresented data.” The Post has yet to revise or append their original report.
Prior to former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress on June 7, President Trump claimed that Comey told him three times he was not, personally, under investigation. The Post reported that “people familiar with the matter” said that Trump’s claims were “inaccurate.” Comey’s Congressional testimony vindicated the president, affirming that he was told three times that he was not under investigation. The Post has yet to correct the record.
In perhaps the Post’s most desperate bit of “fake news” was the report of a “Russian propaganda campaign” by websites that were critical of American foreign policy deemed not aggressive enough on Russia. On the list of Russian propagandists were sites like Drudge Report, Wikileaks, along with sites on the left critical of Hillary Clinton.
The Post cited a report by an anonymous group of researchers called “PropOrNot,” whose credentials are “impossible” to verify. PropOrNot’s “research” began to crumble when skeptical media outlets began to question their credibility, leading to many of the organizations PropOrNot listed as “allies” on their website to deny any affiliation to the group. Buzzfeed reporter Sheera Frankel refused to report on the groups research, tweeting “a lot of reporters passed on this story.” The Post later added an editors note saying that they “do not vouch” for the study’s findings, but kept the article up regardless.
The New York Times:
James Comey’s June testimony before Congress laid to rest dubious reporting in the media that Trump himself was under investigation for colluding with Russia to win the November election. A sitting president cannot be indicted, prosecuted, or tired while in office, he must first be impeached, removed from office and them criminally prosecuted. Never was there an investigation into to president himself, criminal or otherwise.
In January, the Times reported on the FBI’s “counterintelligence” investigation into the members of the Trump transition team. In the Times piece, the purpose of a counterintelligence investigation is relayed to the reader, as it differs greatly from a criminal investigation. The author explains the lower “legal standard” for opening a counterintelligence investigation involving relationships between American citizens and foreign governments.
After James Comey’s March testimony, confirming the counterintelligence investigation, the Times deceptively reported that “Mr. Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House,” and that they will “pursue it ‘no matter how long it takes.'” Whether the Times intended to conflate the counterintelligence investigation with a criminal investigation is hard to know, but the headline claiming the FBI is “investigating Trump’s Russia ties” is misleading at best. The New York Times has yet to issue an explanation or correction.
Following the Times’ lead, Slate, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, America Blog, and The Government Executive, ran similar headlines and/or included explicit references, incorrectly, to Donald Trump being under investigation by the FBI.
On Thursday, the Times issued a correction for an article published on June 25 that incorrectly stated all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Russia “orchestrated” cyberattacks in an effort to get Trump elected. In the Times correction, they reduce the number from 17 to only three intelligence agencies in agreement, “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency.”
How can anyone forget the now infamous Russian dossier that was released by Buzzfeed on January 10, mentioning the “potentially unverifiable” and graphic “sexual acts” the Russians allege were committed by Donald Trump in an effort to compromise him. The dossier contained “salacious and unverifiable” information of then President-elect Donald Trump, as well as unverifiable claims that the Trump campaign worked with the Russians to hack the DNC and John Podesta’s emails.
Despite many media outlets possessing the dossier long before Buzzfeed’s report – CNN had previously reported on it’s existence – it was never released because it could not be properly verified. Buzzfeed released the dossier anyway sparking a media flurry of unverified Trump-Russia collusion allegations.
The hysteria and misinformation surrounding the Trump-Russia probe in the establishment media has at the very least numbed the American public to any new revelations the Russia investigation may recover, and harmed their overall credibility elsewhere moving forward.
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