Friday, Ed wrote about CNN’s big scoop involving a shadowy figure emailing Wikileaks material full of Democratic emails to Donald Trump Jr. before the material was publicly released. As we all now know, that scoop was completely false. CNN eventually issued a correction explaining that two sources had given them the wrong date for the email in question. The actual date (9/14/2016) was a day after Wikileaks had put the information online.
Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald pointed out at the Intercept that multiple sources—CNN, CBS, MSNBC—all published a version of this story, all claiming they had independently verified it. That suggests the “sources” of the false information were very busy peddling it to multiple outlets:
Think about what this means. It means that at least two – and possibly more – sources, which these media outlets all assessed as credible in terms of having access to sensitive information, all fed the same false information to multiple news outlets at the same time. For multiple reasons, the probability is very high that these sources were Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee (or their high-level staff members), which is the committee that obtained access to Trump Jr.’s emails, although it’s certainly possible that it’s someone else. We won’t know until these news outlets deign to report this crucial information to the public: which “multiple sources” acted jointly to disseminate incredibly inflammatory, false information to the nation’s largest news outlets?
As Greenwald points out, just last week the Washington Post outed an undercover operative for Project Veritas on the grounds that the information given by this source was false. Journalists are not required to protect the identities of people who lie to them. So why haven’t any of these outlets revealed their sources yet? How is it possible that two different sources get the date wrong on this email? And before you say ‘Maybe it was a bad photocopy’ it wasn’t. The Intercept posted a screenshot of the email and the date is perfectly clear. This really looks like a case of Democrats leaking a false story and multiple media outlets running with it. But again, we won’t know for certain until those outlets reveal how this happened.
Here’s CNN’s Manu Raju falling on his sword Friday. Why isn’t he outing the “two sources” who gave him (and others) this false info?
There’s also a second layer to this media humiliation. There were left-wing news sites amplifying this story yesterday as a huge “BOOM!” or even a nuclear detonation:
You would think Josh Marshall and others who got burned going with CNN’s reporting would be clamoring to find out what happened. As Greenwald points out, it’s hard to quantify the impact of this false story (or that of Brian Ross’ false story last week) but it’s certainly much greater than the Russian Facebook efforts we’re all supposed to be terribly concerned about:
It’s hard to quantify exactly how many people were deceived – filled with false news and propaganda – by the CNN story. But thanks to Democratic-loyal journalists and operatives who decree every Trump/Russia claim to be true without seeing any evidence, it’s certainly safe to say that many hundreds of thousands of people, almost certainly millions, were exposed to these false claims.
Surely anyone who has any minimal concerns about journalistic accuracy – which would presumably include all the people who have spent the last year lamenting Fake News, propaganda, Twitter bots and the like – would demand an accounting as to how a major U.S. media outlet ended up filling so many people’s brains with totally false news. That alone should prompt demands from CNN for an explanation about what happened here. No Russian Facebook ad or Twitter bot could possibly have anywhere near the impact as this CNN story had when it comes to deceiving people with blatantly inaccurate information.
Finally, that wasn’t the only anti-Trump news screw up Friday. Friday evening Trump spoke at a rally in Pensacola, Florida. Dozens of people were tweeting a photo of a half-empty auditorium claiming Trump had been unable to draw a crowd. Most of the people circulating the photo seemed to be progressives with low follower counts. But Dave Weigel at the Washinton Post jumped on board, tweeting “Packed to the rafters.” Saturday Trump first demanded an apology and then that Weigel be fired.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) December 9, 2017
For the record, this was a tweet not an article on the Post’s site and I don’t think tweeting something dumb is automatically a firing offense. That said, this is exactly the sort of false partisan meme Weigel has spent years professionally debunking. He’s really the last person who should be falling for this. To understand why this keeps happening, you only need to notice one point: All of the “mistakes” regarding Trump cut the same direction. Once again, here’s Greenwald:
What one should expect with journalistic “mistakes” is that they sometimes go in one direction, and other times go in the other direction. That’s exactly what has not happened here. Virtually every false story published goes only in one direction: to be as inflammatory and damaging as possible on the Trump/Russia story and about Russia particularly. At some point, once “mistakes” all start going in the same direction, toward advancing the same agenda, they cease looking like mistakes.
No matter your views on those political controversies, no matter how much you hate Trump or regard Russia as a grave villain and threat to our cherished democracy and freedoms, it has to be acknowledged that when the U.S. media is spewing constant false news about all of this, that, too, is a grave threat to our democracy and cherished freedom.
Reporters are overwhelmingly progressives to start with. Add to that fact the current frenzy to get Trump or damage him in any way possible and you have an environment in which fake scoops are now happening more often than real ones. The media has had its anti-Trump zeal turned up to eleven for nearly a year now. As long as that’s true, these “mistakes” are going to keep happening. Count on it.