Four Lamest Excuses for the Media's Russia Coverage
Not long after the ink dried on the Mueller report, the mainstream media came up with some outlandish explanations for their botched coverage of the Russia collusion hoax.
After some 533,074 web articles and 2,284 minutes of Russia collusion broadcast news coverage, the press was stunned to learn that Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of conspiracy between Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," Mueller said in his report, according to Attorney General William Barr.
Yet, instead of taking responsibility for dozens of misleading “bombshells” accusing President Trump and his advisers of collusion, conspiracy, obstruction, and treason, many anti-Trump journalists say they have “no regrets” about amplifying the witch hunt.
Here are four of the lamest excuses journalists have offered to justify the media’s dreadful reporting of the Russia scandal.
1. “We are not investigators”
According to The New York Times, CNN President Jeff Zucker said that he was “entirely comfortable” with the network’s coverage of the Russia probe because reporters don’t have the same role as investigators.
“We are not investigators,” he said. “We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did.”
Of course, CNN did much more than just “report the facts” for the last two years — it actively promoted the collusion conspiracy theory by giving a platform to Democrat politicians and liberal activists and goading them into making far-reaching accusations against President Trump.
CNN also pushed the hoax under its own branding, such as when it ran an “analysis” piece speculating that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen “dropped a collusion bombshell in the Russia investigation.”
Notably, CNN was also forced to retract a 2017 report alleging that Anthony Scaramucci was being investigated by Congress for his connection to Russia.
2. “It’s not our job to determine illegality”
Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, argued that the main job of journalists is to “bring facts to light” while “others make determinations about prosecutable criminal offenses.”
“The special counsel investigation documented, as we reported, extensive Russian interference in the 2016 election and widespread deceit on the part of certain advisers to the president about Russian contacts and other matters,” he insisted.
Likewise, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet also acknowledged that the paper “wrote a lot about Russia,” but said he has “no regrets” about the coverage because “[i]t’s not our job to determine whether or not there was illegality.”
Baron and Baquet are right — responsible journalists will do everything in their power to “bring facts to light” and to avoid implying illegality. But the facts they choose to emphasize, and how they describe those facts, are also significant.
Articles such as The Washington Post’s 2018 “analysis” noting how the “Trump team has watered down its Russia collusion denials” and The Times’ 2017 article about how “Trump Adviser’s Visit to Moscow Got the F.B.I.’s Attention” are not objective news stories presenting an unbiased narrative; they’re speculative hit pieces intended to advance a partisan agenda.
3. President Trump lied anyway
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough also vigorously defended the mainstream media’s coverage of the Russia scandal, claiming that the president and his advisers repeatedly lied about Russia for many years.
“What would you have had the media do over the past two years when Donald Trump lied throughout the 2016 campaign about his contacts with Russia?” Scarborough asked. “Why would Donald Trump lie about Russia?”
Of course, if the media had been asking Scarborough’s second question from the beginning, then he never would have had to ask the first. Instead of seeking answers, though, Scarborough’s colleagues made their own inferences and passed them off as facts.
Scarborough should know better than anyone that the biased media rushed to judgment instead of asking the real questions about Russia — his own MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow, after all, pushed the collusion story to its limit by suggesting that President Trump was parroting Moscow’s foreign policy talking points in his own public remarks.
4. “Speculation actually has value, too”
Shortly before Barr released his letter summarizing the findings of the Mueller investigation, CNN’s Brian Stelter attempted to justify the media’s actions by claiming that “speculation actually has value, too.”
“[President Trump] has proven time and time again he cannot be trusted,” he added. “He is so dishonest that even America's allies don't know what to believe. He is so unpredictable that his aides sometimes don't know what to say or how to respond. That's the crucial context for whatever comes next.”
Of course, the president didn’t lie to the American people when he repeatedly claimed that there was “no collusion” with Russia. The media, on the other hand, did.
Likewise, defending a culture of biased reporting by claiming that journalists are not investigators is equally flawed — if reporters aren’t supposed to determine illegality, then why did so many of them publish stories framing President Trump as a traitor to his country?
Some media figures have honorably acknowledged the rampant journalistic bias with regard to the collusion hoax and apologized on behalf of the entire industry — but based on the reaction we’ve seen from the rest of the mainstream media cabal, don’t expect that sort of sober self-reflection to become a trend.