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Thursday, December 8, 2022

OPINION:

Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, has begun releasing the “Twitter Files” — a peek at the internal communications surrounding the tech firm’s October 2020 decision to censor the New York Post’s bombshell story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. We learned that it was a half-baked reaction based on a “hacked materials” policy despite there being no evidence that the contents of the laptop were stolen or were the result of a hack.

We also learned that many in the corporate media are still unwilling to admit they were ever wrong about anything in the sorry tale. It’s my guess that most will never come clean because they won’t cop to being participants in the worst collective media misconduct I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness.


Remember that outside of the New York Post and this publication, most outlets either ignored the story or worked to discredit it. They grabbed onto the lie floated in a letter signed by over 50 “former intelligence officials” that the laptop was part of a “Russian disinformation operation.” They smugly laughed off any efforts to convince them of the importance of the information found on the hard drive.

The real story was that the laptop, abandoned by Hunter Biden in a Delaware repair shop, contained evidence linking Joe Biden to his son’s influence-peddling schemes. We know that the elder Biden met with Hunter’s foreign business partners at least 16 times.

In the final two weeks of the 2020 election, the Trump campaign — where I was communications director — held press conference calls daily, imploring national reporters to do their jobs and independently verify the facts themselves. They refused and were open about their hostility to the story.

Now that the authenticity of the laptop is indisputable, and since Mr. Musk has begun to spill Twitter’s dirty secrets, it would be nice if the media’s reaction weren’t so disappointingly predictable.

Alas …

Mr. Musk provided the first trove of documents to Matt Taibbi, a former Rolling Stone contributing editor and a journalist previously praised by the left for speaking “truth to power.” Naturally, his former admirers turned on him quickly, often using strikingly similar language as though a memo had been issued.

“Imagine throwing it all away to do PR work for the richest person in the world,” tweeted Ben Collins, a “dystopia beat” reporter for NBC News who is building a reputation as the most embarrassing journalist in television.

“Imagine volunteering to do online PR work for the world’s richest man on a Friday night,” tweeted MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan. 

Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier tweeted that an editor would have forced Mr. Taibbi to ask the question, “Hey should I be doing PR work for the richest man on the planet[?]”

See a pattern?

Most also yawned that it was old news.

CNN determined that the information “largely corroborated what was already known about the incident.”

Techdirt.com writer and editor Mike Masnick tweeted that it was “basically what has been known for nearly two years.”

Mr. Collins at NBC proclaimed that it showed only that “content moderation is messy” when it involves politics.

Others tried to divert attention by highlighting the more sordid laptop details, like pictures from Hunter Biden’s apparent hobby as an amateur porn star.

Jason Abbruzzese, a tech, science and climate editor for NBC, tweeted, “It is, in fact, Twitter exercising its right to moderate its platform as it sees fit, including taking down nude pictures of people who did not consent for them to be posted on the Internet.”

The New York Times couldn’t help itself and still referred to the laptop as “stolen” when it never was.

Some even dusted off the old “Twitter is a private company, so it can do what it wants” defense, like David French in The Atlantic.

Except we now know that the FBI possessed the laptop in 2019 but didn’t warn Twitter of a possible “hack and leak” operation involving Hunter until 2020 — right before the story broke. You see, when the government leans on a private company to engage in censorship, it is indeed a violation of the First Amendment.

And inevitably, some reasoned, like Philip Bump of The Washington Post, who wrote a piece that said, basically, “Sure, we all suppressed the story as best we could, but it didn’t affect the election.”

This claim is disputed by polls released after the 2020 election that showed that a substantial number of people would have changed their votes in key states if they had known about the laptop’s contents.

What’s glaringly clear is that most of the corporate media were utterly dishonest about this story from the beginning and continue to be today, but they simply can’t cover it objectively now, or they risk telling on themselves for their original deception.

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and the founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs, a communications consulting firm where he advises political candidates and corporate clients.


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