In 1981, Dan Rather of CBS News breathlessly reported the words, “James Brady is dead.” James Brady was the press secretary for President Reagan and was collateral damage in the assassination attempt on Reagan by John Hinckley. In their effort to be first, CBS got it wrong. Brady did not die that day in March of 1981. In fact, Brady wouldn’t pass on to his final reward until the year 2014 at the age of 73. It was a colossal error on the part of CBS. In the modern age of 2020, it would hardly register a blip on the screen.
The level of disregard for research, fact gathering and unbiased reporting by the current mainstream media is difficult to get your arms around. Examples big and small abound.
The alleged collusion between President Trump’s first campaign and the enemy state of Russia was reported relentlessly for nearly two years. Despite a glaring lack of facts to support the allegations, all the major television networks and cable news outlets led their coverage with it virtually every day. Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and John Brennan, former CIA director, both repeatedly claimed on camera to have first-hand knowledge of damning evidence that connected Mr. Trump to the Russians. After a two year investigation that cost more than $30 million no evidence was found. None. In fact, the only presidential candidate who had worked with the Russians was Hillary Clinton. No one disputed that and yet nearly no one reported much about it either.
As it turned out, not only did former CIA Director John Brennan not have any evidence of Trump wrong-doing, records emerged in his own handwriting that he had actually briefed then-President Obama and the administration’s security team on the fact that the report on Mr. Trump and Russia had originated with Hillary and that she was using it for her political advantage. Neither Mr. Brennan nor Mr. Schiff were held accountable for lying to the American public. Not a peep from the media. The truth be damned.
Then came the Ukraine impeachment fiasco. Perhaps no better definition of collusion can be found than the mainstream media’s agreement not to mention the name of the so called whistleblower nor provide more than a cursory look at his background or motives. Never mind that he had worked on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies on Ukraine policy with none other than Vice President Joe Biden. Did you know that? If not, you’re not alone. The media was too enthralled with the impeachment scenario to get bogged down with meaningful facts.
Today, questions have been raised about Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Apparently, Hunter has led a troubled life featuring strippers, hookers and cocaine. Truthfully, that’s not really news. Mr. Biden’s son taking money from Russia, China and Ukraine, however, or mails with China insisting on a cut for the “Big Guy” (and we’re not talking about Arthur Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnati)? That’s news worth investigating. Unless you are the modern American media.
Can you imagine the media outcry, the absolute feeding frenzy if the exact same facts applied to Don Trump Jr.? If Trump Jr. had taken money from the mayor of Moscow’s wife or reminded China to set aside a 10% cash stake for his Dad, it would be reported 24/7.
Therein lies the problem. America’s mainstream media is all-in on advocating for one particular candidate and defeating the other. There was once an indelible line between hard news and editorial comment. In 2020 that line isn’t just blurred, it is non-existent. This is nothing short of media malpractice.
When the GOP announced it was moving their convention to Jacksonville, Florida, reporting on the number of Florida COVID-19 cases shot through the roof. When Mr. Trump capitulated and the Jacksonville idea was scrapped, suddenly Florida COVID cases weren’t news anymore. Likewise, in the 10 days leading up to Election Day the headlines inject fear into every reader, viewer and listener. COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing we are told. What we aren’t told is that the percentage of coronavirus cases that require hospital attention are plummeting. Why ruin a good scare with factual data?
Recently, when a pair of dueling town hall meetings replaced the scheduled second presidential debate, the advocacy position of the major networks was on full display. ABC hosted Joe Biden. Former Clinton adviser George Stephanopolous was moderator. He literally lounged in his chair, introducing alleged undecided voters to ask their questions and allowed Mr. Biden to respond to them. By my count, he interjected only once, and that was to elicit more detail from Mr. Biden on a softball question.
Conversely, Savannah Guthrie of NBC felt her role as moderator of the Donald Trump town hall was to open the hour with nearly 15 minutes of questions designed to highlight Mr. Trump’s least popular topics and then continually interrupted Mr. Trump and argued with him throughout the town hall as if she herself was running against him. Mr. Trump handled it well, but the point is the media sees its role as assisting Mr. Biden and tearing down Mr. Trump.
Speaking of town halls, several allegedly undecided voters that stood and read their questions to Joe Biden during his televised town hall events turned out to be anything but random citizens. One had been a speechwriter in the Obama administration. Two who appeared on Mr. Biden’s NBC town hall had previously appeared on NBC news programming as Biden advocates. Put simply, these people were plants, the questions were created by the campaign and much of the town hall was a staged political theater intended to benefit the candidacy of Joe Biden. The media yawned.
Again, let’s flip the coin and pretend we were talking about Donald Trump. Had the president staged and scripted his town hall, radio television and print would all have screamed bloody murder. Frankly, the networks would never have allowed it to happen.
Equally as bad is the media’s intentional omission of significant news stories that might benefit President Trump. The Trump administration has been announcing agreement after agreement in the Middle East, bringing together Arabs and Israelis. Mr. Trump has been nominated by three different entities around the globe for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. American media coverage? Virtually non-existent. I’d challenge whether most White House correspondents can even tell you which countries have entered into agreements with Israel.
Compare this to the coverage of the Obama administration announcing an agreement with Iran. Despite the fact the agreement allowed the very thing the talks were intended to prohibit, nuclear development, the media gushed about the tremendous success and historical importance.
Most recently, the left-wing magazine The Atlantic made the claim that according to unnamed sources, Mr. Trump had called American troops and war dead “losers and suckers” to senior staff members at a very specific meeting in Europe in 2018. Again, the mainstream media ran with it. Joe Biden has repeated it publicly dozens of times. The problem? Within 36 hours of the claim being published, the Trump team had signatures from 25 officials who had been present at the meeting indicating no such thing was ever said. Among those who cleared the president was former National Security Adviser John Bolton, certainly not a Trump fan. The media gleefully reported the allegations and then spent no time whatsoever on Mr. Trump being cleared by those actually in attendance at the meeting. Again, the truth be damned.
National Public Radio (NPR) was among those news outlets that published and/or broadcast story after story about the “suckers and losers.” NPR did not do a full story on the President being cleared. That same NPR refuses to spend any time reporting or investigating the Biden family money connections to China or Russia because, “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not real stories and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”
Their arbitrary decision-making on what is a waste of time and what is newsworthy apparently doesn’t take into account facts or supporting information. NPR, funded by the U.S. government, has staked out a horse in this race and apparently will abide accordingly.
Online media is in a struggle to financially survive in the digital age. Most have not figured out a formula yet that will allow them to robustly pursue the news while making a profit. Instead even the most storied news organizations are just looking for clicks and pennies. They are doing so at the expense of their own reputations. The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, CNN and others have all repeatedly gotten it wrong and now are paying the price.
The Gallup organization released the results of a poll about a month ago that showed only 9% of the American public trusts the media “a great deal.” A full 60% of U.S. citizens have either “not very much” or “none at all” when asked how much trust they have in the media.
If a medical doctor performs malpractice with any regularity, he finds himself without much demand for his services and few or no patients. The mainstream media should take note of that because they are quite literally at the point of no return. Their collective disregard of facts, balance and of respect for their target audience serves no one and the trust they are burning through now in pursuit of online clicks is unlikely to ever be earned back.
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