Follow-Up: “Observations On A Potential Supreme Court Ethics Scandal…” Yup, It’s Fake News. (Well, Mostly…)

Mark Tapscott is a veteran Washington, D.C. political pro and investigative journalist (who has weighed in at Ethics Alarms a time or two). Late yesterday he focused on clarifying the troubling Rolling Stone story I wrote about here. 

That Rolling Stone piece was headlined, “SCOTUS Justices ‘Prayed With’ Her — Then Cited Her Bosses to End Roe,” an allegation that fed directly into the pro-abortion trope that the Dobbs decision was substantially motivated by theological fervor rather than legal analysis. In the Ethics Alarms post, I expressed skepticism that the story could be accurate because no mainstream media source had picked it up, and also because any Justices praying with a representative of a religious organization before ruling on a case in which  that organization had submitted a brief would create a neon-bright appearance of impropriety. On the other hand, I found it unlikely that the publication would drop such a “bombshell” without strong evidence, since its news reporting credibility was on lengthy probation after its phantom UVA “gang rape” story fiasco in 2015.

Now the verdict’s in, thanks to Tapscott: Rolling Stone apparently hasn’t learned anything about journalism ethics the last seven years. In a “Culture” column for PJ Media, Tapscott explains: Continue reading

A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Reports A Fake Video As News In The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial

How embarrassing, but more than that, how infuriating.
Richard Winton, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Los Angeles Times, reported on the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial that consumed social media,
“At one point, actor Jason Momoa, star of ‘Aquaman,’ testified via live video in support [of] his co-star Heard. Without prompting, he said, ‘Hi, Camille,’ to Depp’s high-profile litigator, Camille Vasquez, a rising star in Orange County legal circles who quickly became the star of the trial as much as Depp and Heard.”

It didn’t happen. What Winton reported as fact was actually a faked video sent out on Twitter as a joke. To be clear, the reporter was pretending to report on what he had witnessed, but really took second-hand information as true, and it wasn’t. I once got a theater critic fired for writing a review of the second act of a show I directed when she had left during intermission. This is worse. The Times issued a terse correction stating, “An earlier version of this article included a paragraph about Jason Momoa testifying by video at the trial. The “Aquaman” actor did not testify.”

And? What is the paper going to do about a reporter who reports imaginary news as fact, when he’s too lazy to attend the event he’s supposedly reporting on? Continue reading

A “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Pop Quiz (Don’t Worry, It’s Easy): What’s Unethical About This NYT Quote?

Here is a paragraph from yesterday’s news article by reporter Jonathan Weisman in the New York Times:

In Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and now Nebraska, Republican men running for high office face significant allegations of domestic violence, stalking, even sexual assault — accusations that once would have derailed any run for office. But in an era of Republican politics when Donald J. Trump could survive and thrive amid accusations of sexual assault, opposing candidates are finding little traction in dwelling on the issues…

Now think about that for 30 seconds. What’s missing? Cue the thinking music…

Ready? Got the answer? Continue reading

Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask

Compared to the above mass fake news about mass graves that have not, in fact, been verified, NPR’s bit of false reporting on Supreme Court intrigue seems trivial, and is. NPR’s longtime liberal-leaning Supreme Court reporter impugned Democratic Party boogie man Neil Gorsuch—He stole Merrick Garland’s seat!—by writing that Mean Neil was trying to kill Justice Sotomayor ( who “has diabetes, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness, or even death” from the Wuhan virus) or something, because he refused to wear a mask despite Justice Roberts “asking” him to.  Sotomayor, therefore, has to participate in the Court’s work via Zoom. Gorsuch is, apparently, fully vaccinated, and doesn’t have the virus. Continue reading

Fake News Watch: 1. The Graves

This was another bad week for media trust, or would be, if the news media would fairly report its own unethical behavior.

Sometimes my instincts serve me well. I have piles of New York Times articles lying around my office, all intended to be the basis of future posts. Back in October, I was preparing to write a post based on this story and this one, about “evidence that 215 children were buried on the grounds of a British Columbia school, one of the many in Canada set up to forcibly assimilate them.” The stories about mass graves started arriving in May of last year, and the allegations were horrific. “In the past four weeks, two Indigenous communities said they have discovered hundreds of unmarked graves of children who may have died at the schools of disease or neglect, or even been killed,” wrote the Times.

I didn’t write that post; something about the story seemed off to me. This was true despite the fact that my confirmation bias regarding misdeeds on the part of the Catholic Church, which ran the schools, is strong.

It didn’t seem off to the mainstream media, though. CNN reported a “gruesome discovery.” The Washington Post wrote that the “mass grave” “dragged the horror of Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous people back into the spotlight.” The unmarked burial place of children was reported to the public as fact. The photo above, from the National Post, was captioned, “Hundreds of children’s shoes remain in place at a memorial outside the Alberta Legislature building in Edmonton on Monday May 31, 2021. A vigil was held Sunday May 30, 2021 in memory of the 215 indigenous children whose remains were discovered on the grounds of a former Roman Catholic church residential school in Kamloops, B.C.”

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Why American Presidents Need A Fair News Media To Be Competent, And More Evidence That They Won’t Get One Anytime Soon, If Ever…

fakenews

It’s my own fault. I’ve written so many essays here since 2009 about the disgraceful descent of the news media into partisan propaganda that I can’t find the relevant post I was looking for on my own blog. That would be the one during the Obama administration in which I pointed out that being assured that no reporters and virtually no pundits would have the guts or integrity to criticize Obama’s performance as President had made him lazy, arrogant, and reckless. If you know anything you do will be extolled whether it deserves praise of not, and any mistakes and blunders will be covered up or spun, why be careful, especially if you’re an arrogant narcissistic like Barack? The same principle operated on President Trump, but in reverse (I honestly don’t recall if I noted this, but I noticed it). If a President is certain that whatever he does will be attacked by the news media, there is no reason for him to consider the press in his policy considerations. Summary: bad journalism makes bad Presidents.

Several commentators are finally waking up to this phenomenon now, as they try to find some other than Joe Biden to blame for Joe Biden’s incompetence. I have now read several pieces opining that the President was certain that the press would have his back no matter what happened in Afghanistan.

That was really foolish on Biden’s part (but then…Biden) for two reasons. First, he is not nearly as popular as Obama, and nobody was going to call a reporter “racist” for criticizing him. Second, and more importantly, journalists destroyed their influence and credibility during their four year campaign of fake news and glorified rumors to bring down Donald Trump. Most of the public doesn’t trust the mainstream media—good!—because it is untrustworthy. The days when it could cover a President’s botches effectively have passed.

One would think that this would spur the news media to be more careful about the lies they present to the public as truth, and one would be tragically wrong. Two recent examples from last week demonstrate that no “Oh-oh, we better start practicing honest journalism!” alarms are ringing yet.

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Ethics Villains: The Boston Globe Editorial Board

Globe Logo

The Boston Globe has just published an editorial splashed on its website in the flamboyant style its previous owner, the New York Times, reserved for “important” declarations and propaganda like the “1619 Project.” “The Case For Prosecuting Donald Trump” is the latest installment of the Globe’s ongoing attack on former President Trump, which, of course, began from the moment he was elected. This screed is the current chapter, the sixth, in a project called, clumsily enough, “Future-Proofing the Presidency.” It is, even for the bottom of the barrel level of partisan and biased journalism that is now routine, nauseating. Even the timing of it is unethical—partisan, cynical, and embarrassingly obvious. Donald Trump isn’t President, and the Globe’s claim of fictional urgency regarding an exited POTUS is unprecedented.

Is this worse than the Globe’s stunt in 2016, when it published a fake front page showing what a future Trump Presidency would yield? Oh, I don’t know. I do know that a newspaper that would publish that would be capable of issuing an editorial this bad…and so it has!

The past week has exposed the irresponsible policy calculations of the Biden administration, notably with inflation arising as anyone could have predicted it would with a government that tosses away trillions like money is confetti. The President’s corrupt son has again come under examination, reminding us how the news media, including the Globe, deliberately embargoed information regarding his slimy activities that legitimately raised questions about “The Big Guy.” The illegal immigrant rush to the border, a surge that Democrats and Joe Biden invited, is a disaster. Kamala Harris, assigned the job of managing it, was anointed as a President in Waiting, and has demonstrated (again) how frighteningly unqualified she ,

The party the Globe works for has revealed itself as harboring anti-Semites within its leadership. The previous Democratic President has begun attacking white America and evoking the racist views of his “spiritual advisor” Rev. Wright, though candidate Barack Obama condemned such divisive views in order to get elected in 2008. Yet another false narrative the news media used to undermine President Trump’s re-election prospects was exposed as a lie this week, and the Democratic Party’s plans to enact a radical agenda without anything resembling a popular mandate by eliminating the Senate filibuster have crashed. Another IRS scandal under a Democratic President is emerging—and with all of this happening, and more, the Boston Globe’s priority is examining the Presidency of Donald Trump?

The editorial is deliberate misdirection, and desperately so. Its translation, as a whole, comes to this: “Never mind what’s going on now: wasn’t that last President horrible? Don’t you think we should get him?”

I haven’t read the previous editorials in the series, but as a lawyer, the headline was clickbait. What is the case for prosecuting Trump? The Globe’s editorial board doesn’t make it; they don’t even make a good faith effort. Unbelievably, the Globe’s indictment consists of three “crimes”:

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“Trump Lost, Didn’t He?” One More Piece Of Damaging Anti-Trump Fake News Is Proven False

When President Trump claims the election was stolen, this is the kind of thing he should focus on.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General released its findings after investigating law enforcement’s actions on June 1 of 2020, when police removed protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., ahead of President Donald Trump walk to St. John’s Church, after “peaceful protesters” had set it aflame. The authorities made the decision to clear out the park in order to install fencing amid ongoing rioting in the area following the death of George Floyd, the investigation determined, and not for to give Trump a photo op, as the news media furiously reported. Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt’s thorough and detailed report concludes,

“We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1. The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church.”

Oh! That’s funny…at the time, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos reported that “The administration asked police to clear peaceful protesters from the park across the White House so that the President could stage a photo op.” “Reported” means it’s factual, right? ABC checked it out, it didn’t just follow what protesters said and the DNC told them to say, right? Just like NPR‘s headline “Peaceful Protesters Tear-Gassed To Clear Way For Trump Church Photo-Op” had to be based on solid facts and objective reporting, or it would have said “allegedly” or “some say,” correct? The New York Times–you know, the best of the best?—would never have printed “Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose at Church” if it wasn’t true, isn’t that how the “paper of record” is supposed to work? In a widely circulated video, a man interviewed on the scene said, “To me, the way our military and police have behaved toward the protesters at the instruction of President Trump has almost been Nazi-like.” Perfect!

Then, handed a false narrative, another Big Lie to run with, Democrats didn’t disappoint. Here’s Joe Biden or his ventriloquist:

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The Reverend Robert Wright Lee Car On The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck

Fake Lee

I missed this, a case where refusing to subscribe to my local paper, The Washington Post, bit me. (I decided that if I have to get a flagrantly left-wing biased newspaper that has chosen to be a propaganda organ for the Democratic Party, I might as well get the best flagrantly left-wing biased newspaper that has chosen to be a propaganda organ for the Democratic Party and not #2.

Glenn Kessler, the Post’s “Factchecker” who tries to be objective but is so marinated in his organization’s biases that he fails as often as not, tried to save face for his employers by revealing that a man who has repeatedly represented himself as a descendant of General Robert E. Lee (On his website, Rob Lee describes himself as “a descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.”) in order to justify toppling statues of the Confederate icon is, in fact, nothing of the kind. He is as much a relative of General Lee as Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee. Nonetheless, the Post published an opinion piece on June 7, 2020, by Rev. Robert E. Lee VI titled, “Robert E. Lee is my ancestor. Take down his statue, and let his cause be lost.” The Post editor identified the author as the fourth great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The headline, the description, and the justification for publishing the op-ed were, in order, a lie, journalism negligence, and misinformation. That was a year ago. Now Kessler decides to check the facts? Nice job, Speedy.

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