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The Media Didn’t ‘Get It Wrong’ On Lafayette Park, They Lied To America — And They’re Still Lying

The riot in Lafayette Park the night before June 1. Screenshot/MSNBC.

We were treated to what at first appeared to be rare mea culpa this week as reporters read the Department of the Interior inspector general’s report on the riots and police response in Lafayette Park last summer and appeared shocked to find that the Park Police and Attorney General Bill Barr and even President Donald Trump were telling the truth when they said the crowd was going to be dispersed before police knew the president was thinking of coming down there.

It’s rare to see what looks remotely like self-reflection in our self-obsessed corporate media, so it would be nice to nod and smile and move on, but is it an acknowledgement of error — or is it even basic self-reflection — if the sin isn’t addressed all all? As in, if the problem isn’t admitted? Because on June 1, 2020 (and what followed), corporate media didn’t simply get it wrong, they flagrantly and shamelessly lied to Americans in order to hurt the president.

But first, a quick montage of the coverage.

Not all of these anchors or reporters were in Washington (and a lot of them didn’t think it safe to travel in June unless you were going to a protest or a riot or one of George Floyd’s funerals), but many were in D.C., and all have correspondents in the city. That’s important, because to get in front of the cameras at the White House press briefing, as Jim Acosta did every chance he had, or to pose for the live camera shots on top of the nearby Chamber of Commerce, these reporters and pundits had to walk through the streets — and the mob that controlled them.

That means they heard the drumming and the curses and the threats and the screams and the howls of the mob whenever confronted by police or close enough to the White House to vent their rage.

That means they saw the shattered windows and empty businesses and spray painted profanities and revolutionary threats and burned church and smashed cars and trash-strewn streets of the city.

That means they maybe even saw the rioters trying to pull down the beautiful statue of Lafayette, or maybe at least saw the empty and defaced pedestals nearby of those statues the mob successfully claimed.

That means they maybe even dodged the occasional projectiles when bricks and glass bottles and full soda cans and fireworks were thrown into police lines after the sun went down.

And all that means they knew full well what this “peaceful protest” was about, and they had to walk past its rich, poor, and working-class victims every day they went to get on camera.

That means they heard this, and they saw it, and they chose to lie to you about it.

I know this because I’ve lived here in Washington for 17 years now. I work here, I’m lucky enough to own a home here, and I care about this city, and my friends, our neighbors, our churches, and our businesses, and the bartenders who served us beer, and John who still walked us to our lunch table long after he could have retired, and the policemen who kept the streets clean then stood there each night under an assault of abuse and a violent barrage of hurled objects.

I love this city, so I walked those streets before and just after the riots — and in the months that dragged on afterwards all the way until Donald Trump was defeated and our local businesses could go back to not being afraid of the mob.

I saw the spray paint on the office my friend was proud to buy for his company, and on the restaurants and hotels and coffee shops. I saw the shattered windows and the wooden barricades and the young and old men trying to clean it up with power hoses and sponges. And I saw the elderly couples being walked from their cars to the hotel they were staying in by doormen who knew the “peaceful protesters” in the park smoking pot and banging on drums and threatening passersby and police weren’t peaceful at all.

White House reporters knew all of that too.

Little better exemplifies the combination of Washington’s self-obsessed nature with its complete lack of self-reflection like Politico Playbook, which Thursday morning — the morning after the IG report that upended a full year of media lies — began its newsletter with the “must-read of the day.”

That story, a Bloomberg story, was called “Welcome To The Trump Coast,” and was all about the “alternate universe” and “denial” of the former president’s life and friends down in Mar-a-Lago. The Playbook excerpt attacked the president’s “insular feedback loop,” which they said was “amplified by his worship of validation” from reporters he agreed with, and which “doesn’t appear to likely to diminish” in the coming years.

Only 17 paragraphs (and an advertisement from Google) down did the reader learn anything about that embarrassing Lafayette Park business in the IG report. The report, and the fake acknowledgment, got one paragraph before it was onto “CNN’s Secret Fight With The Justice Department.”

The president may have moved down to Florida, but there is an insular feedback loop in Washington that is indeed amplified by a worship of validation from reporters it agrees with, and which truly doesn’t appear likely to diminish in the coming years. For corporate media to see that would take a little self-reflection — and a true apology for lying to the entire country.

And it isn’t coming.