…and without trustworthy journalism, democracy cannot survive.
There was reason to hope that following its beyond miserable performance in its coverage of the campaign and election just concluded, American journalism would respond to reality and dedicate itself to repairing its broken relationship with traditional professional ethics. Poll after poll shows that the news media’s standing with the public has never been lower. Because the profession itself ought to be more keenly aware than anyone of how vital honest, fair and competent journalism is to the health of a democracy, one would expect that this would be a moment demanding brutal self-examination and rapid reform.
This is not what we are seeing, however. Consider:
- Last weekend, ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviewed Donna Brazile in a New Year’s Day review of the election. I couldn’t believe it. She was introduced as a respectable commentator with no acknowledgment of her role in the Clinton fiasco and the news media’s disgrace. As Ed Morrissey wrote,
Why is Jonathan Karl interviewing Brazile in the first place? …It has been 62 days since CNN severed their ties with Donna Brazile over the fact (no longer an “allegation”) that she cheated during one of the Democratic presidential primary debates and attempted to cheat during a second one in Flint, Michigan. And yet ABC News is inviting her to sit down for a casual New Years Day chat like any other political analyst.
CNN shouldn’t have allowed her to be a staff member to begin with, since she was a partisan political operative. She used that relationship and exploited her conflict of interest to try to do what she could to rig the election. She was exposed, lied by denying it, and fired. Now, after the election, she behaves as if nothing has changed, and ABC again presents her as a reliable analyst.
- After WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta revealed collusion and shockingly unethical ties between prominent journalists and the Clinton campaign, as well as the campaign openly referring to such journalists as allies, none of the journalists so exposed have been disciplined, nor have any of the news organization employing them indicated that they were so much as troubled by the revelation.
Many of those same journalists will now be covering the Trump White House. This includes CNBC’s chief political correspondent, John Harwood, who had numerous supportive e-mail exchanges with the Clinton campaign, including one that patted himself on the back for his infamously biased questioning of GOP candidates in a televised debate.
- In December, the New York Times announced it would be hiring Politico reporter Glenn Thrush to cover the Trump White House, despite WikiLeaks e-mails showing that Thrush sent pending stories to Clinton staffers for their approval.
- On CBS, “Face the Nation” led off 2017 with a supposedly “balanced” panel of pundits made up of guaranteed Trump critics: Former Bush speechwriters Michael Gerson, and David Frum, the latter who argued in the pages of “The Atlantic” for conservatives to vote for Clinton; Jeffrey Goldberg, the Obama-extolling editor of “The Atlantic,” and former NPR anchor Michele Norris, who left the network when her husband took a job in the Obama White House.
The panel—did I mention that this was presented as balanced?—was hosted by John Dickerson, whom CBS named its top anchor in 2015 despite one of the more openly partisan records of any broadcast journalist. For example, in 2013, he wrote an essay for Slate titled, “Go for the Throat! Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party.” By long-dead standards of journalism ethics, no reporter who allowed his name to placed on such a partisan screed would ever be hired as anything but an op-ed columnist by a respectable news organization.
Luckily for Dickerson, CBS is no longer respectable
The discussion proceeded as one would expect. Frum: “The idea that a foreign power has reached into the United States, and tampered with American democracy, and maybe chosen for Americans a president that the larger number of Americans didn’t want for themselves.” He went on—this was from the “not pre-biased against Trump’ side of the panel, remember— to say that Trump’s victory is a “threat to democratic institutions in this country and around the world. And I– I don’t think we do people a service by saying, ‘You know, there have been bad things in the American past before.”’There have been. This is our bad thing, and it’s about as bad a thing as has happened in any of our lifetimes.”
Vietnam. Watergate. Impeachment. Assassinations. 9-11. No, the worst thing that has ever happened to the United States since 1960 (when From was born) is that Americans learned, after news sources like CBS publicized the leaks, that Democrats rigged their nomination and cheated on debates, that the DNC knew Obama was lying about Clinton’s e-mails, and that the Clinton Foundation was indeed influence-peddling, and that this information, though there is no evidence that it actually did, caused a corrupt Democratic candidate to lose an election. The worst.
Did Dickerson, or anyone present, inject the mandatory, “Uh, David, are you out of your frickin’ mind?” Of course not.
Gerson, who at that time thought that his old boss was boycotting the Trump inauguration, added, “I think there’s a pretty much even chance that we’re going to have a constitutional crisis or have a completely incompetent presidency that doesn’t know how to exercise power.” Was there anyone there inclined to respond, “Well, you might be right about the constitutional crisis, since Democrats have been working pretty much non-stop to create one, and–wait, Michael, haven’t we just had a completely incompetent presidency that doesn’t know how to exercise power?”
Of course not.
But balance is relative. Norris then suggested that Trump won because white Americans don’t like having a black President. That’s what “Make America Great Again” meant.
- CNN’s “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota countered a complaint by the RNC’s Sean Spicer that Senate Democrats were planning on obstructing Trump’s attempts to govern by saying that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell had stated that his goal was to make Barack Obama a “one-term president” before Obama was even sworn in.
This, as I have written more than once (and so has the Washington Post fact-checker in 2012) is the false Democratic talking point that will not die. McConnell’s “one-term president” comment came in October 2010 in an interview with National Journal just weeks before the midterm elections and almost two years after President Obama was elected. Never mind. Why should journalists be required to know the facts and accurately relay them—and by the way, it was all that fake news that Trump voters stupidly believed that beat poor Hillary. When Spicer tried to correct Camerota’s false statement, she refused to budge. Camerota: “I think your timeline might be wrong. I will check that, Sean, because I think it was right when President Obama was elected…”
No subsequent correction has been forthcoming, so all of CNN’s loyal Democratic following will now be re-circulating this fake history. By the way, did you know that Mike Brown shouted “Don’t shoot!’ and had his hands in the air, and that Hillary lost because political parties almost never keep the White House for three straight terms? It’s true: I read it, saw it and heard it on the news…over and over again.
- Which is a nice segue to the Washington Post’s front page scoop that Russian hackers penetrated a Vermont power grid, which the Post was inclined to believe because “Russia hacked the election.”
The Washington Post headline:
Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say.
Anyone can purchase the malware found on the laptop, but the Post leaped to the conclusion that Russians implemented the malware just because Russians developed the malware. If the Post had bothered to check with the Burlington Electric Department, it would have known that its story didn’t comport with the facts. After being roundly butchered for presenting this fake news, the Post finally, several days later, retracted it, writing,
As federal officials investigate suspicious Internet activity found last week on a Vermont utility computer, they are finding evidence that the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility, according to experts and officials close to the investigation.
An employee at Burlington Electric Department was checking his Yahoo email account Friday and triggered an alert indicating that his computer had connected to a suspicious IP address associated by authorities with the Russian hacking operation that infiltrated the Democratic Party. Officials told the company that traffic with this particular address is found elsewhere in the country and is not unique to Burlington Electric, suggesting the company wasn’t being targeted by the Russians. Indeed, officials say it is possible that the traffic is benign, since this particular IP address is not always connected to malicious activity.
Do I think the Post was convinced that the Russian were hacking into a power grid because it bolstered the “Russia hacked the election” narrative being pushed by Democrats to undermine the Trump Presidency? I do, because that’s how bias works: it makes you stupid, unethical and incompetent.
I should mention for the sad Snopes defenders periodically checking in here that this fake news that conservative sites were able to debunk long before the mainstream media questioned it was never checked on that fact-checking site.
So what’s going on here?
The analysis is in Part 2, coming right up…