After reviewing last week’s news coverage, I would encourage President Trump to come up with a more accurate taunt than “fake news.” Maybe “garbage news.” Or perhaps “bottom-feeding news.” Even try “we-are-a-collection-of-dishonest-miscreants-who-are-unworthy-of-an-ounce-of-the-American-people’s-trust news.”
But “fake news” is tame in light of the media’s misleading, destructive, and willfully ignorant reporting last week that was intended further to inflame a divided body politic.
Some of the lowlights featured MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough, claiming Trump has done more damage to the country than the 9/11 terrorists; the editorial board of a major newspaper blaming Trump for Hurricane Florence; the wholesale acceptance of a highly flawed paper about hurricane deaths used to bash the president; and a despicable crusade not just to quash Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, but to destroy his reputation and damage his young family.
And it wasn’t just the dependable lunatics on the Left pushing trash commentary. Bret Stephens, the NeverTrump “conservative” columnist for the New York Times, compared Trump to a drug addict. Washington Post “conservative” blogger Jennifer Rubin warned that if Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted to confirm Kavanaugh, their names would be, “as was the case with [Nazi-era traitor] Vidkun Quisling—synonymous with ‘sellouts,’ ‘collaborators,’ or, to use a Trumpism, ‘phonies.’”
As the week came to a close, the New York Times was forced to append its misleading article that criticized U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for buying pricey curtains to decorate her official residence. The window coverings, it turns out, actually were purchased by her predecessor in the Obama Administration. But it was too late. Social media had pounded Haley all morning for being extravagant and heartless.
This is why Americans, in a recent poll, cited inaccuracy and bias as the key reasons why they no longer trust the media.
But there is a more sinister agenda behind this collective media cacophony: To hide their complicity in the biggest political scandal of all time, which included the weaponization of the nation’s most powerful government agencies to spy on a rival presidential campaign; the illegal leaking of classified information to friendly journalists to defame American citizens associated with the campaign; and the sabotage of an incoming presidency, the media is happy to distract us with manufactured non-scandals that advance the political interests of their friends.
Each week, new details emerge about how the media seeded the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. High-level federal officials acting in bad faith schemed with reporters eager for a scoop to spin nefarious tales about the president and his aides. Some of the resultant articles were cited as evidence to persuade a secret court to allow the U.S. government to spy on private citizens. Former FBI Director James Comey admitted he had a friend leak a copy of his internal memo to the press to help prompt the special counsel probe into Trump-Russia collusion.
The Justice Department’s Inspector General recently exposed the cozy ties between reporters and FBI personnel. Journalists wooed agents with drinks, meals, tickets to sporting events and other perks in clear violation of ethical standards and agency protocol.
The government and the media were not just figuratively “in bed” with each other during 2016 and 2017; it was quite literal. This year, federal investigators uncovered an illicit affair between the married Senate Intelligence Committee’s security chief and a young unmarried reporter; James Wolfe was arrested by the FBI last spring for covering up the three-year relationship. He was passing along nonpublic and classified documents to Ali Watkins, his much younger journo-girlfriend, who then disclosed the information in her reporting on Trump-Russia “collusion.” This helped the 20-something reporter rise from an intern to a New York Times contributor in less than four years.
But the public is only now starting to get a full view into what journalist Lee Smith has called an “extinction-level event” for the press. (Smith compiled a terrific rundown of the Trump-Russia “echo chamber,” which was similar to the strategy employed by the Obama administration to sell the Iran Nuclear deal.) Text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two high-ranking FBI agents (also in the midst of an illicit affair at the time of these events), continue to expose how they planted damaging stories about Trump associates in the press, even after Trump was sworn in as president.
Strzok—a ubiquitous figure tied to the Clinton email investigation, the Trump-Russian counterintelligence probe, the Mueller team (until he was dismissed from it over the Lisa Page affair), and the Michael Flynn investigation—was fired from the agency last month. He boasted about a “media leak strategy.” The ploy used reporters as conduits to help justify the FBI’s interrogation of Trump officials.
Page and Strzok orchestrated newspaper hit jobs in April 2017 on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page—Strzok even joked with Lisa Page about their shared last name—by illegally divulging details about the FISA warrant on the short-term campaign volunteer. The Washington Post was the first news outlet to report on the FISA surveillance on April 11, 2017. (Comey confirmed in congressional testimony that disclosing FISA information is a crime.) That scoop apparently ruffled some feathers at the New York Times; Strzok told Page a few days later “the Times is angry with us.”
Aren’t you relieved to know that this is what the country’s top law enforcement officials are worried about?
The same outlets who report any shred of nonsense as long as it damages Trump and his allies, of course neglect to cover these unseemly connections between investigators and the media. The Post inconceivably defended the “media leak” strategy as an attempt to combat media leaks, not facilitate them, even though all evidence supports the opposite conclusion. The Post insists that drawing this clear conclusion is succumbing to just another Trump conspiracy theory. A parody-like piece in CNN contended that congressional Republicans were accusing Strzok and Page of misconduct “without evidence” and that it was “an unproven and disputed assertion that the President amplified.”
Other journalists declare Strzok is a victim, targeted by Kremlin-loving Republicans because he once fought a Russian crime ring. The New York Times has not reported on the latest trove of texts at all.
The media’s scorched earth strategy to take down Trump as they cover their own asses is not an accident. They are doing whatever they can to try and stop the inevitable: the self-inflicted extinction of their integrity and credibility. Seventy percent of Americans—including 90 percent of Republicans—have lost faith in the news media over the past decade. More ignoble performances by the press only will deepen Americans’ distrust of this once-respected institution—and prove that the president is right.
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Photo Credit: Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call