Via Newsbusters, Cuomo does a crafty job of deflecting here, first insisting that Giuliani point to something Cuomo himself said that was inaccurate — chapter and verse, please! — and then batting away accusations against his network by noting that no one has asked Giuliani to apologize for things Trump has said, have they?
To which I would have said: Uh, yeah. Rudy’s asked all the time in interviews to defend Trump’s comments. Granted, as a lawyer his professional duties towards Trump are different than Cuomo’s duties to CNN, but it would have been perfectly appropriate for Cuomo to say a few words in defense of CNN’s two years of Russiagate coverage if he felt moved to do so. He doesn’t seem very moved. I wonder why.
The Times asked his boss to explain why the media inflated the collusion balloon for two years, only to have Mueller pop it last weekend. His answer was not encouraging.
Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, said he was “entirely comfortable” with the network’s coverage.
“We are not investigators. We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did,” Mr. Zucker said in an email. “A sitting president’s own Justice Department investigated his campaign for collusion with a hostile nation. That’s not enormous because the media says so. That’s enormous because it’s unprecedented.”
Zucker has an interesting concept of what “journalism” is if he’s at pains right away to distinguish it from investigation. What he means, I think, is that his staff couldn’t know what Bob Mueller knew so they did the best with what they did know. You can think of Russiagate reporting as a series of concentric circles: In the middle is what Mueller knew, then various publicly available court documents, then what outsiders in contact with Mueller’s office knew (or thought they knew), then publicly available information of all sorts. Just because CNN couldn’t penetrate to the inner circle, they weren’t supposed to write what they knew about the others?
But that’s not the objection against Russiagate coverage, of course. No one’s claiming the media should have ignored the fact that Trump’s own Justice Department was investigating him for possible collusion with Russia in 2016. I don’t think anyone’s grumbling much about the hard-news investigative stuff produced by serious outfits like the Times and the Post. The objection is that so much oxygen was consumed by speculation about what Mueller knew and that speculation reeked of a partisan rooting interest in seeing Trump humiliated. It’s not the lack of “investigators” at CNN that bothers Trump’s defenders, it’s the thousands of hours devoted to on-air panel discussions that amounted to nothing more than spitballing about just how much trouble Trump must be in. How could you watch it with any regularity and not assume that Trump was guilty to some lesser or greater degree? The innermost concentric circle, Mueller’s office, generated very little light in the form of leaks and yet the media produced tremendous amounts of heat on what was allegedly happening day to day. It was a nuclear reactor that somehow operated for two years … with nothing radioactive at the center of it.
That’s what Rudy, official spokesman for a guy known to generate much more heat than light himself, wants an apology for. He’s not going to get it.
If you missed it yesterday (and I doubt you did), read Matt Taibbi’s long but worthy journey through the reporting on Russiagate, which he compares to the WMD reporting before the invasion of Iraq. It wasn’t just the surfeit of speculation that encouraged belief in Trump’s guilt; there were genuine misses on the hard-news side as well. It’s an open question to me whether a 24/7 cable/Internet news culture like we have now is better or worse on balance in informing the public on a longstanding story like Russiagate. You might say “better” because, after all, there are thousands more suppliers of information than there were in the pre-cable pre-Internet age, but you also might say “worse” because a 24/7 appetite for information has to be fed constantly, and if it’s not fed with reliable information — and there’s only so much new reliable information to be had at any moment — then it’ll be fed with unreliable stuff. It’s an awkward thing to be part of an industry devoted to commentary and think “there’s too much commentary” but it might be better if outlets that do original reporting like CNN had fewer hours on the air each day and focused more heavily on hard news. Leave the commentary to water-cooler drones like me who don’t actually influence opinion.