Hey Media, If We're Doing Mea Culpas, What About Clinton Cash?

Hey Media, If We're Doing Mea Culpas, What About Clinton Cash?

Oh, Axios! You are such a tool of the Beltway establishment, and you never let us down. I swear, the D.C. political press has the attention span of a flea. Is the Steele dossier really the worst journalistic error of the current political era? I beg to differ:

A reckoning is hitting news organizations for years-old coverage of the 2017 Steele dossier, after the document’s primary source was charged with lying to the FBI.

Why it matters: It’s one of the most egregious journalistic errors in modern history, and the media’s response to its own mistakes has so far been tepid.

Outsized coverage of the unvetted document drove a media frenzy at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency that helped drive a narrative of collusion between former President Trump and Russia.

This is the current shiny object for the media elite, and considering that the details were unproved but the big picture was correct, this particular story is not the most disturbing I’ve seen. Because Trump is indeed a Russian asset, and we still don’t know the full story.

But let’s look at a handful of other insinuating stories that also came out in the leadup to the 2016 election.

Remember how the Times “cleared” Trump right before the election?
Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia (New York Times, Oct. 31, 2016)

As I predicted, this was a nothing burger. But Jim Comey turned it into a national scandal:
Emails in Anthony Weiner Inquiry Jolt Hillary Clinton’s Campaign, New York Times, Oct. 28, 2016

Oh yes, the implied FBI investigation — on Election Day! Thanks, Washington Post!
Why an anti-Clinton book from Breitbart got the FBI’s attention, The Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2016

Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation has a system not unknown to other non-profits: namely, they act as a passthrough to donations without ever touching the money themselves. The Times managed to use that to amplify a drumbeat of corruption:
New Book, ‘Clinton Cash,’ Questions Foreign Donations to Foundation, New York Times, April 19, 2016

I pointed out the problems with this story to the author:

@amychozick 1/ Who the hell trained you? Funny that you left out that Schweitzer is in business w/ Breitbart News. Seems relevant.

— Suburban Guerrilla Ω (@SusieMadrak) April 20, 2015

@amychozick No, he’s the cofounder of a RW org with the executive chair of Breitbart News. Man, you are one lazy reporter

— Suburban Guerrilla Ω (@SusieMadrak) April 20, 2015

Let me note here this is also an egregious error on the part of Chozick’s editor.

The New York Times has been trying to tie the Clintons to corruption on this deal since 2008, but Factcheck.org found no “there” there.. I don’t remember seeing a correction, do you?

Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal, New York Times, April 23, 2015

The most immediately egregious was the curiously credulous coverage of “Clinton Cash,” the book that was funded by Steve Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute, a think tank established for the specific purpose of whitewashing right-wing conspiracy stories by getting them into the mainstream media, thus giving them credibility. (Oh, and the author of the book, Peter Schweizer, was the president of the institute.) The New York Times’ own public editor, Margaret Sullivan, questioned the “exclusive arrangement” the Times made to pursue some story lines.)

The Washington Post and Fox News also announced similar arrangements, but none of them ever shared the details. There was some pushback in the usual publications, but if the Times, the Post or Fox News ever admitted they made a mistake, I haven’t seen it.

The right’s new Clinton obsession just went mainstream: How a sketchy Hillary “exposé” hooked the New York Times, Salon, April 21, 2015.

After Forming Clinton Cash “Exclusives,” NY Times, Washington Post Fail To Report On Book’s Errors, Media Matters, May 1, 2015.

But of course, the Times is the Times. The Post did pull back their Clinton Cash coverage as the problems came to light, but as far as I can tell, never actually apologized.

So you see, there is a very different set of standards and the clamor for public remorse over journalistic “errors.” I will just sit here and hold my breath, waiting for them to ever admit what they did to tank Hillary Clinton and thus help Donald Trump crash his way into the White House.

P.S. You would never know from the coverage, but it wasn’t the Clinton campaign who first funded the Steele dossier. It was the wingnut rag The Washington Free Beacon that’s funded by billionaire Paul Singer.

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