John dug into several aspects of this story yesterday, but more questions remain. The issue at hand is one we’ve been covering since Friday and it involves that CNN report claiming that candidate Trump was given special access to some Wikileaks information before everyone else. The key failure in the report was that the actual email was sent after the material in question had gone public.
To be clear, this is not a minor mistake. It changed the story from a bombshell into, “Man may have read something on internet.”
But as John was pondering yesterday, that means that two different sources – anonymous sources as is so often the case with some of these damning stories about Trump coming from the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN – had burned CNN and they seem to be totally fine with it. There has been zero indication that they plan to tell us who those faulty sources were, though there’s no journalistic rule against it. And the claim from the network is that they don’t believe the sources were acting maliciously. Really?
In this morning’s edition of the Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty brings up the follow-on question which has been missing. Why should we believe this was an innocent mistake when that is the least likely scenario? (Emphasis added)
Despite the network’s assertion, it’s easier to believe that this wasn’t a pair of enormously coincidental innocent mistakes, but a deliberate effort on the part of two coordinating sources to get CNN to report erroneous information that will appear extremely damaging to the Trump administration. How likely is it that two Democratic congressional staffers decided to get together and use CNN as the vehicle for their preferred narrative, that is, WikiLeaks coordinated the release of confidential materials with the Trump campaign?
At the very least, can CNN acknowledge whether the two sources were on the Democratic side of the aisle?
John made the point on Sunday that a screenshot of the email in question was made available. There was no question of what the actual date was. It wasn’t fuzzy or smeared. Perhaps one person might have had dirty glasses and misread it, but we’re to believe that two people not only got it wrong but independently came up with the same incorrect date? The “independently” part is key here, because all of these outlets always assure us that they strive for independent corroboration from independent sources when using these anonymous tipsters to develop major stories.
That leaves us with two more plausible scenarios than the one CNN is claiming at this point. One, that CNN was in on it and knew the date was wrong but ran with it because the earlier date made for a bigger blockbuster. They clearly don’t like that one so, as Geraghty alludes, the other, far more plausible explanation is that two Democrats inside the government – either elected officials or their senior staffers acting with permission – intentionally fed CNN the wrong date to deliver a major shot across the President’s bow. And if that’s the case, why not burn the source?
If they’re still debating the matter, here’s one reason to give them up: now that two, obviously highly placed sources have clearly played you (or made an unforgivable mistake if you insist on sticking with that story), how do we know you’re not going to use them again? We’re constantly told, ‘trust us. Our sources are rock solid and on the inside but we can’t reveal them.’ Well, these two aren’t. They are at a minimum criminally incompetent and ,far more likely, weaponizing the MSM in their battle against the GOP. The next time we see a bombshell report from you relying on “anonymous sources” we should feel free to disregard it as fake news if you’re not going to clean up your own mess.
Or, you can keep doing what you’re doing and allow public confidence in the media to totally crater. And if your answer to that one is to say that the public still trusts the media more than Trump, you’d better go back and watch your own stories about just what a low bar you believe that is.