The Media's Reign Of Error Exposed

Authored by Mark Hemingway via WeeklyStandard.com,

Covering the Trump presidency has not always been the media’s finest hour, but even grading on that curve, the month of December has brought astonishing screwups.

Professor and venerable political observer Walter Russell Mead tweeted on December 8, “I remember Watergate pretty well, and I don’t remember anything like this level of journalistic carelessness back then. The constant stream of ‘bombshells’ that turn into duds is doing much more to damage the media than anything Trump could manage.”

On December 1, ABC News correspondent Brian Ross went on air and made a remarkable claim. For months, the media have been furiously trying to prove collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Ross reported that former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had just pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was prepared to testify that President Trump had instructed him to contact Russian officials before the 2016 election, while Trump was still a candidate. If true, it would have been a gamechanger. But Ross’s claim was inaccurate. Flynn’s documented attempts to contact the Russians came after Trump was president-elect, allegedly trying to lay diplomatic groundwork for the new administration. Ross was suspended by ABC for four weeks without pay for the error.

 

Later that same weekend, the New York Times ran a story about Trump transition official K. T. McFarland, charging that she had lied to congressional investigators about knowledge of the Trump transition team’s contacts with Russia. The article went through four headline changes and extensive edits after it was first published, substantially softening and backing away from claims made in the original version. The first headline made a definitive claim: “McFarland Contradicted Herself on Russia Contacts, Congressional Testimony Shows.” The headline now reads “Former Aide’s Testimony on Russia Is Questioned.” The website Newsdiffs, which tracks edits of articles after publication, shows nearly the entire body of the article was rewritten. (The Times website makes no mention of the changes.)

 

Still in that first weekend of December, Senator Orrin Hatch criticized the excesses of federal welfare programs, saying, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves.” The quote was taken wildly out of context. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough as well as journalists from Mic, Newsweek, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Hatch was directly criticizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with some suggesting Hatch thought children should be put to work to pay for subsidized health care. Not only was Hatch not criticizing the CHIP program, he cowrote the recent bill to extend its funding.

 

On December 5, Reuters and Bloomberg reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank account records of President Trump and family members, possibly related to business done in Russia. The report was later corrected to say Mueller was subpoenaing “people or entities close to Mr. Trump.”

 

Then on December 8, another Russia bombshell turned into a dud. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb reported Donald Trump Jr. had been sent an email on September 4, 2016, with a decryption key to a WikiLeaks trove of hacked emails from Clinton confidant and Democratic operative John Podesta—that is, before the hacked emails were made public. (WikiLeaks is widely surmised to act as a front for Russian intelligence.) MSNBC and CBS quickly claimed to have confirmed CNN’s scoop. Within hours, though, CNN’s report was discredited. The email was sent on September 14, after the hacked Podesta emails had been made publicly available. CNN later admitted it never saw the email it was reporting the contents of.

This is just eight days’ worth of blundering.

Since October of last year, when Franklin Foer at Slate filed an erroneous report on a computer server in Trump Tower communicating with a Russian bank, there have been an unprecedented number of media faceplants, most of them directly related to the Russia-collusion theory.

The errors always run in the same direction—they report or imply that the Trump campaign was in league with Moscow.

For a politicized and overwhelmingly liberal press corps, the wish that this story be true is obviously the father to the errors. Just as obviously, there are precedents for such high-profile embarrassments in the past. (Remember Dan Rather’s “scoop” on George W. Bush’s National Guard service?) But flawed reporting in the Trump era is becoming more the norm than the exception, suggesting the media have become far too willing to abandon some pretty basic journalistic standards.

Editors at top news organizations once treated anonymous sourcing as a necessary evil, a tool to be used sparingly. Now anonymous sources dominate Trump coverage.

It’s not just a problem for readers, who should rightly be skeptical of information someone isn’t willing to vouch for by name. It’s a problem for reporters, too, because anonymous sources are less likely to be cautious and diligent in providing information. According to CNN, the sources behind the busted report on Trump Jr.’s contact with WikiLeaks didn’t intend to deceive and had been reliable in the past. Maybe so, but given the network’s repeated errors it’s difficult to just take CNN’s word for it.

But it’s one thing to use anonymous sources; it’s quite another to be entirely trusting of them. CNN decided to report the contents of an email to Donald Trump Jr. based only on the say-so of two anonymous sources and without seeing the emails. “I remember when I was [a staffer] on the Ways and Means committee and I would try and give reporters stories, and I remember the Wall Street Journal demanded to see a document,” former Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer tells The Weekly Standard. “They wouldn’t take it from me if I didn’t give them the document, and I thought, ‘Good for them!’ ”

What makes the botched story of the WikiLeaks email more troubling is how quickly MSNBC and CBS ran with CNN’s scoop. “It’s hard to imagine how independent people could repeatedly misread a date on an email and do so for three different networks,” says Fleischer. “Whose eyesight is that bad?”

This points to an additional problem with the sourcing on these unfounded reports. The only way three networks could claim to have verified the same specious story is if they were all relying on the very same sources. Many of the flawed Trump reports appear to be sourced from a very narrow circle of people, who no doubt share partisan motivations or personal animus.

Certainly, it appears a number of recent spurious stories have originated as leaks from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. In Raju and Herb’s report, they revealed that Trump Jr. had been asked about the WikiLeaks email in closed-door testimony before the committee. After CNN’s scoop imploded, a spokesman for Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, issued a classic non-denial denial, telling Politico “that neither he nor his staff leaked any ‘non-public information’ ” about Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony.

Meanwhile, the Russia investigation has been very good for raising Schiff’s profile. A December 13 press release from the Republican National Committee notes the congressman has at that point spent 20 hours, 44 minutes, and 49 seconds on television since Trump took office, talking mostly about the investigation (pity the low-level staffer who must have had to do the research for that release). During that time, Schiff has always declined to discuss the particulars of the intel committee’s work. Nonetheless, consideration of his sensitive position hasn’t stopped him from offering all manner of innuendo to national TV audiences about evidence suggesting Russia collusion.

For their part, the media don’t seem to be coming to grips with the damage they’re doing to their own credibility. CNN, which calls itself “the most trusted name in news,” didn’t retract their WikiLeaks report but rewrote it in such a way as to render the story meaningless. They also came to the defense of Raju and Herb, saying the reporters acted in accordance with the network’s editorial policies. And of course they didn’t out their sources—the ultimate punishment news organizations can mete out to anonymous tipsters who steer them wrong.

It understandably infuriates the media that President Trump remains unwilling to own up to his own glaring errors and untruths, while news organizations run correction after correction. And it also understandably upsets the media to watch the president actively attack and seek to undermine their work, which remains vital to ensuring accountability in American governance.

What they haven’t grasped is how perversely helpful to him they are being: On a very basic level, President Trump’s repeated salvos against “fake news” have resonance because, well, there does indeed appear to be a lot of fake news.

“There is nothing wrong with holding powerful people accountable. There’s nothing wrong with investigating whether or not collusion took place. But there’s a lot wrong when because you want to believe in the story so much you suspend skepticism,” says Fleischer.

 

“You let your guard down. You abandon the normal filters that protect journalistic integrity. And you fail to also hold to account powerful leakers, or powerful members of Congress who themselves have an anti-Trump agenda. It’s called putting your thumb on the scale.”

Comments

Keyser SWRichmond Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:33 Permalink

It appears that someone is trolling the MSM by feeding them spurious stories just to destroy their credibility... There is no way the MSM pundits could pass up juicy tidbits about Trump and his team, so the falsehoods keep getting printed... Could not happen to a finer bunch of scumbags IMHO... 

In reply to by SWRichmond

LetThemEatRand Keyser Sat, 12/16/2017 - 20:03 Permalink

The Deep State is the "someone."  Well documented, not hyperbole.  And it's not to destroy their credibility.  It's to continue feeding disinformation to the people who get their news from MSM, who would literally think I'm crazy for suggesting that which is painfully obvious.The MSM is just a propaganda arm of the Deep State.  Period, end of story.  

In reply to by Keyser

BobEore Enceladus Sat, 12/16/2017 - 22:33 Permalink

He trolls these fuckers relentlessly ...how very "presidential" !! In between twiiterring and working out new ways to re-finance that $900M hangin sword o debt... I'm sure he has time for the 'affairs of state' that would occupy the concern of [larger-handed?]men. And cue: next party of LUBAVITCH lenders in those funny coats and hats - here to discuss that third mortage sir!

In reply to by Enceladus

lew1024 BobEore Sun, 12/17/2017 - 11:54 Permalink

Well, let's see. In between tweet storms, the ME wars are nearly ended. Relations with Russia are improving.. NK situation is on a back burner, no further threats from Kim. The EU is beginning to be independent of the US's Neocon policies, good for Russia and E Europe. China doesn't seem too upset with the US. NAFTA is being seriously renegotiated, perhaps ended. Prototypes of the wall are being tested, but immigration, legal and otherwise, is way down.And, the Deep State and minions in the US (and apparently around the world), are beign exposed  as never before(Awan Bros, ... through Mueller, Comey, McCabe, drug smuggling, people smuggling), ridiculed and (we all hope), will soon be prosecuted.Further, in one year, the CIA's many nefarious activities have become accepted in polite conversation among Ds and Rs, their rolling coup an accepted fact by many citizens. It is a poilitically different country than when Trump was elected, we are impatient for things to be corrected that most wouldn't have accepted as fact before the election.As for 'presidential' we have had a lot of great facades in the last few Presidents, but an Israel-Neocon-Deep State reality. I like this version better.More unpresidential tweet storms, please!!

In reply to by BobEore

jeff montanye LetThemEatRand Sat, 12/16/2017 - 22:04 Permalink

well, the department of justice inspector general's report is due in late winter or early spring.  that might have an uppercut or a left hook or two in it.  it is even conceivable that mueller might report that guccifer 2.0, in essence, was the dnc or that crowdstrike was wrong about russian hacking.  right cross and there goes the mouthpiece out into the third row.  and let's not forget uranium one, the awan family, or debbie wasserman schulz.these are complicated stories, all of them, and, optimally from trump's point of view, they should come to their most damaging stages, with the most involved audiences, around the early fall of next year.  that's just two dimensional checkers.king him.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

Reichstag Fire Dept. SWRichmond Sun, 12/17/2017 - 12:33 Permalink

You're exactly right.The reaction of the Left to Trump's Presidency makes me wonder...what did they think was going to happen if Hitlery won?!Someone explain to me...what did they lose that was SO BAD that it justifies acting like they are?Lefties are literally losing their jobs/careers over this Trump victory. I don't remember Righties losing jobs over the Obama victory in 2008! Where were the riots? None. Didn't happen. Surely to fuck the people Left of centre must be embarrassed by the actions of their side...and their media.This is sowing the seeds for a massive Trump victory in 2020...I'm going to go ahead and predict he'll win by the largest margin in US history...and that's a Libertarian saying that, I'm not even a Trump guy, but I can appriciate him deconstructing the Left for me...thank you, President Trump!

In reply to by SWRichmond

khnum Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:33 Permalink

It is a sad reflection on the US media when the only journalists you can find are on Russia Today and Al Jezeera- but for the masses we are now in a post truth society where you think of a story then go look for the evidence no matter how spurious.

Automatic Choke khnum Sat, 12/16/2017 - 20:03 Permalink

"It is a sad reflection on the US media when the only journalists you can find are on Russia Today and Al Jezeera- but for the masses we are now in a post truth society where you think of a story then go look for the evidence no matter how spurious."It is easy enough to blame US media as being liberal whores, and there is doubtless a fair amount of truth to this, but some of this is (in hindsight) inevitable.    Decades ago, media outlets were worth billions, as they had, not a monopoly, but the ear of the public reduced down to 3 networks.   There actually were professional journalists, who earned decent salaries and were proud of their profession.   They were literate, they had a sense of justice (most of them), and they were paid for their efforts.   If they sucked and brought shame on their house, they were promptly fired.Nowadays, we have literally thousands of choices for our newsfeed, and the media giants are worth pennies on the dollar of their value decades ago.  They just can't get the ear of the public, for we can and do go elsewhere at the drop of a hat (or the click of a mouse).   Since they have much less income, they clearly have less to pay their journalists.   Much of the news that is reported is now pulled off the wires, copied from other newsfeeds, or supplied by pro bono bloggers and contributors.  The factual quality has clearly suffered, unsurprisingly.   The literary quality has suffered worse, unsurprisingly. If we want better news, we would have to pay for it...and then wait the generation time for journalism to build back up to a reputable profession, which it would only do with a steady stream of income.   Fat chance.  I'm not going to say something trite like 'we have only ourselves to blame' for this, since we aren't talking blame....this is just the market reaction to technology changes.   One more way in which technology has changed our lives, and not necessarily a good one, but one from which there clearly is no going back.  

In reply to by khnum

ebworthen Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:34 Permalink

Witch Hunt.The snowflakes want Unicorns, rainbows, and self-concept boosting platitudes.They cannot accept half the population voting for a return to common sense and reality.

Yen Cross Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:45 Permalink

 Turn the shit off...  Pay attention to what your [personal] objectives are. Libtards hate Conservatives because they can't understand why or how we accumulate wealth. Marc sp [Jewban] is a Libtard.

LetThemEatRand Yen Cross Sat, 12/16/2017 - 20:29 Permalink

I often agree with you Yen Cross, but not on this one.  Most of the truly wealthy in the world made their money the old fashioned way -- they stole it.  Think the Fed.  The Rothschilds.  Jamie Dimon.  Lloyd Blankfein.  CEO's of any major company with their stock buybacks and golden parachutes.  CEO's of the MIC companies who reap trillions from tax payers to fight wars that most Americans do not want.  Many Libtards understand that our system is broken, but they blame capitalism instead of crony capitalism/fascism (those that say they are against fascism by and large don't really understand what fascism is, as evidenced by their support of the likes of Clinton).  Their proposed solution is wrong, but they are actually correct in being against "why and how" the wealthiest accumulated their wealth.

In reply to by Yen Cross

LetThemEatRand Yen Cross Sat, 12/16/2017 - 20:56 Permalink

Same here, man, and thanks.I'm sincerely pissed.  I can't believe we're watching -- in real time -- the total destruction of something that could and should be the pinnacle of world economic, political and social systems.   All so that a few fucking people who already own more than they could use, make more than they can spend, and have more power than Kings from the days of Kings could wield, can have more.

In reply to by Yen Cross

TeethVillage88s red1chief Sat, 12/16/2017 - 23:14 Permalink

Bill & Hillary: "Let's Export Mafia Tricks to all of USA to be like USSR"

And so little Chilren... that is how we got 911, DHS, Endless War, GWOT, Limit-Less Govt Debt at all levels, Limit-Less Credit for Govt, ... Uber-Progressiveism ... Unlimited Trade Imbalance

Or so it seems...

** New York-ification ** New Yorkification ** NewYorkification **

In reply to by red1chief

lakecity55 Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:46 Permalink

At least this proves the deep state own the media: they all report from the exact same script. I suppose it gets faxed to them each morning.Get your information elsewhere, folks, anywhere except "Tass."

AurorusBorealus Sat, 12/16/2017 - 20:00 Permalink

The U.S. media lies about everything, not just about Trump and Russia.  Trump is calling attention to the lies that the networks and mainstream dailies and monthles are telling about his connection to Russia, that is why this seems to be the crux of the "fake news."The U.S. media has lied, lied, lied, and lied again about U.S. involvement in Syria and U.S. arming jihadists and terrorists.  They still lie.  They lie about what happened in Las Vegas, mindlessly repeating without question the incoherent babble that spews from the mouth of that stooge sheriff and his FBI overseers.  Their opinion polls are all lies.  Their economic statistics are all lies as they mindlessly report U.S. government economic propaganda.  Their reports about global warming are all lies, lies, and more lies.  They never report about all the evidence of faked data and scientific fraud that have been revealed in the climate "science" grant-seeking industry.  They never report about the thousands of honest climate scientists who doubt the model and who know that the data is fraudulent.  They lie about Ukraine and have never told the story of how the CIA, the State Department, and the Clintonistas fomented a neo-nazi coup there.  They lie about Europe, its immigration crisis, and the situation inside the no-go zones.  They have gone so far as to lie about my country: Argentina, in the past few years, claiming that we were on the verge of an economic crisis, that there were protests in the streets.  I even remember Zerohedge mocking Argentina for a tampon shortage, which lasted about 1 week and did not impact anyone in any real way.   They lied about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.  Finally, they lied about 9/11.The only lies that bother Trump, however, are the ones that they tell about him.  If he were an honest man, if he were serious about draining the swamp, he would tell the people the truth: the truth about the CIA arming terrorist and offering aid and support to America's enemies and bring charges of treason against those responsible; he would tell the people the truth about the Ukranian coup; he would tell the the truth about what happened in Las Vegas; and finally, he would tell the people the truth about 9/11.  Trump is not interested in the truth, however; nor is he interested in draining the swamp.  He is interested only in putting in place a new set of swamp creatures who tell different lies.So long as the American people live in a world composed of nothing but lies, it does not matter if they vote for the Trump junta, the Clintonistas, or the neo-con Deep-state.  People who allow themselves to live in a world of deceit are slaves to their decievers and can never be free.Here is some more scripture for James Comey.  "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

insanelysane Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:53 Permalink

The MSM, FBI, and Deep State all know that their time to get rid of Trump via impeachment is almost past.  The revelations about the treasonous FBI makes Plan B a bit more difficult but it will come to pass.  Trump is not controllable.  Very similar to Ronald Reagan and JFK who were also not controllable.

andrewp111 insanelysane Sat, 12/16/2017 - 23:52 Permalink

Plan A is to do Trump in with the Mueller investigation, which doesn't seem to be working. Plan B is to win control of both the House and Senate in 2018 (which probably will happen), and then to use their Media Dominance to steamroll enough Senate Republicans into voting to remove Trump from office. [They know they can take back the Senate, but getting to 67 Democrats is mathematically impossible in 2018.] If the Democrats end up with more than 52 Senators after the midterm election, the Republicans will likely be so panicked that they will be willing to dump Trump.

In reply to by insanelysane

8th Estate Sat, 12/16/2017 - 19:55 Permalink

"The errors always run in the same direction"And that's how you know they are not merely "errors"Now look at how often the hedonic adjustments result in higher inflation ratesSame deal.