Things are pretty bad in the profession of journalism when a reporter can be an Ethics Hero by simply staying objective and stating the obvious, but such is the wretched state of journalism ethics in 2017.
As mentioned in the earlier post, CNN immediately avoided journalism and defaulted to partisan Obama Administration defense mode when it was revealed that Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice “unmasked” Trump campaign personnel whose conversations were inadvertently picked up in security surveillance. Rather than examining the story, objectively, factually, CNN anchors Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo declared the story, respectively, a Trump-manufactured diversion and “fake news.” (The New York Times did its part by burying the Rice story on page A-11.)
CNN’s John King, however, bravely eschewed the company line, that line being “partisan spin.” Showing a video from last month, King began…
“This is Susan Rice a short time ago on the PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff. When asked at first, her name was not involved at first in the conversation at this point. When asked at first the House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes says there was unmasking done by Obama administration officials.”
Now he runs the tape…Woodruff’s question was, ” I began by asking about the allegations leveled today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that Trump transition officials, including the president, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.”
SUSAN RICE: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today. I really don’t know to what Chairman Nunes was referring. But he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal lawful surveillance and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens.
The clip ends.
KING: Uh, remember the beginning of that. “I know nothing about this.” This is the same Susan Rice moments ago on MSNBC.
He runs the second clip.
RICE: There occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided. Just U.S. person. And sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that U.S. official was.
The clip ends.
KING: Not to be a jerk here but will the real Susan Rice please stand up?
Added guest Yahoo! News chief Washington correspondent Olivier Knox:
KNOX: The second part of that on MSNBC there a perfectly logical explanation on how unmasking works but the problem is the previous comment in which she denies any knowledge of it so she can’t in the same breath…
KING: Welcome to the witness list.
KNOX: Yeah, I mean, come on!
Translation: If what Rice did was innocent and unremarkable, why did she initially deny she did it?
The National Review fills in what King only hints at:
So in two weeks, we went from “I know nothing about this” to “yes, I requested the ‘unmasking’ of these individuals, and it was perfectly appropriate and legal.” Also notice this careful denial: …the notion that — which some people are trying to suggest, that by asking for the identity of an American person, that is the same as leaking it, is completely false. There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking. No, but once information is unmasked, it’s a heck of a lot easier to leak, now, isn’t it? On January 12, when Susan Rice and all of her deputies were still in their jobs, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius cited a source that was a “a senior U.S. government official” declaring that Michael “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29.” That information and the contents of the call are classified; whoever leaked the information to Ignatius committed a crime. Rice denies leaking the information. Of course, she also insisted the Benghazi attack was a “spontaneous protest” and denied that it was “premeditated or preplanned”; and that Bowe Bergdahl served the United States with “honor and distinction.”* Maybe it was her, maybe it wasn’t, but no one with any sense should trust her denial; saying otherwise would be admitting to a crime.
Exactly. It wasn’t perfect, but let’s credit John King for refusing to join his colleagues’ unethical practices.
*In the earlier article, I failed to mention this glaring example of Rice’s recurring role as the purveyor of convenient Obama administration false narratives.