For months, CNN has been all over stories that attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency by suggesting ties to Russia. It would be impossible to catalogue the hourly drumbeat of “new” stories on this angle that have gone on for months, despite the lack of named sources or actual evidence.
The cable news outlet heavily pushed the infamous “Russian dossier” story that was quickly harmed by BuzzFeed showing how dubious to the point of laughable the dossier was. The network’s obsession extends to running red-washed photoshopped graphics of Trump advisors in front of St. Basil’s. The Russia scare headlines run into the dozens each and every day.
A couple weeks ago, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee publicly stated that he’d seen dozens of reports that were disseminated widely in the intelligence agencies featuring unmasked information on people close to Trump. He stated that these reports were of little to no intelligence value, so that the unmasking was disconcerting. He also stated that these reports had nothing to do with Russia.
Devin Nunes, the Intel chair, wasn’t speaking anonymously. He was being specific about what he saw and what concerned him. Surely you would think the network that breathlessly reported what turned out to be an easily debunked dossier would understand the significance. Surely you would be wrong.
The media that gets upset when they are called the opposition by President Trump rushed to emphasize the really important parts of a story about intelligence collection of political opponents. I joke. They instead focused on the fact that Nunes was a Republican and supported Trump and their opinion that he shouldn’t have told the White House.
Yesterday, the news broke at multiple outlets that the unmasking wasn’t done by a low-level official at an intelligence agency, but by Susan Rice herself. She was President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor. All of a sudden people began admitting that Nunes was right that information on political opponents had been collected, unmasked, and disseminated, but they turned to downplaying this as significant news.
This is a media-wide problem, but no one has been more shameless about this than CNN, which formerly at least attempted to position itself as politically neutral. CNN has decided to declare the news story “fake” because of this report from former Obama political appointee Jim Sciutto (who was a colleague of Susan Rice at the Obama State Department), who now covers the Republican administration:
Wait, wait, wait, wait. Slow down here. A person close to Rice said she did nothing wrong? Well this changes … oh wow, this changes … nothing. I mean, people close to Mike Flynn said he did nothing wrong, and they even had quite the case, but I don’t recall Sciutto either running with that angle, or believing such an angle “debunked” the coordinated leak campaign against Trump he was recipient of.
Of course Susan Rice’s family and friends will rush to her defense. That’s what friends are for. But that doesn’t “debunk” a story. The idea that you wouldn’t pursue this story and all of the interesting questions raised by it is an affront to journalism. But that seems to be the road CNN has chosen to go down. A few examples:
Don Lemon appears to read directly from the first draft of Democratic National Committee talking points:
CNN should really kill its chyrons before they kill CNN’s credibility:
My favorite thing about Chris Cillizza was that time he wrote the piece attacking the Trump campaign headlined “Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?” about two minutes before Hillary Clinton’s limp body was shoved into a van. My second favorite thing is that he’s now “editor-at-large” at CNN. He says of the major Rice news, “Trump just keeps creating smokescreens to mask his Russia problem.”
Anderson Cooper and Jim Sciutto team up here to push the “ginned up as a distraction” talking point:
Here’s Jim Sciutto with the Democratic National Committee talking points after they’ve gone through a few rounds of editing from Ben Rhodes. The lack of balance in this report would be funny if it didn’t deal with national security and civil liberties:
To make the case, as CNN’s reporters and anchors sometimes try to, that Donald Trump’s comments against the press are intemperate and irresponsible, you simply can’t prove him right. CNN has been given a chance to restore seriously damaged credibility and a reputation that it strongly favors Democrats and strongly opposes anything Donald Trump says or does. They should reconsider whether their turn to hyperpartisanship is in the long term interests of their company or the country. Right now, they’re a joke.
Ari Fleischer offered a few sample questions that real journalists would be interested in asking if they were interested in real journalism:
If I were a reporter, I would want to know why Rice sought the unmasking. The FBI is investigating possible Trump collision [sic], not the WH.
How often did she ask? What reasons did she give? (Each request is tracked and catalogued in writing by the NSA. A procedure exists.)
The info would have been provided ONLY to her as the requester. It is highly classified. Did she share it? With whom? Why?
If she shared it with anyone, why did she do so? What did they do with it? Did they give it to the media or tell media about it?
One of the reasons we live in a polarized era is because too many reporters look the other way at issues like this. Bias is real.
It’s not too late. The press knows how to dig and get answers. I hope they do so.
It takes a little bit more work than reporting what a friend of Susan Rice anonymously says in her defense, or putting “fake news!” in the chyron, but it’s worth the effort.