This kind of fact-free hit job is sadly all to familiar to Republicans, and a specialty of 60 Minutes: Shortly before the 2004 presidential election, the show ran a story using fake documents that alleged that then-president George W. Bush had gone AWOL while he was in the National Guard. The documents were disproven with such swiftness that journalistic malpractice was too good a term for the segment, though 60 Minutes defended the story for two whole weeks before finally admitting they should not have used the documents. The 60 Minutes producer, Mary Mapes, had so wanted the story to be true that she didn’t do even the most basic fact-checking on the segment.
The difference between then and now is that in 2004, there were other major news outlets also involved in scrutinizing the documents and holding 60 Minutes to account. Today, there is by and large silence from the other media sources. They, too, share the anti-De Santis perspective and don’t care that the 60 Minutes story is based on a lie.
In fact, if it weren’t for two prominent Florida Democrats pushing back on the 60 Minutes invention, the story might have completely faded away.