Media Malfeasance at ABC News and Beyond

Media Malfeasance at ABC News and Beyond
Brian Ach/Invision for Advertising Week/AP Images, File
Media Malfeasance at ABC News and Beyond
Brian Ach/Invision for Advertising Week/AP Images, File
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Last week the fake-news operatives of our corporate media complex, particularly ABC News, revealed through their duplicity that they thoroughly deserve President Trump’s denigration as “the enemy of the people.” Far too many American media practitioners today forsake journalism in favor of narrative promotion. Indeed, they consistently show themselves to be a cabal of group-think “resistance” advocates masquerading as reporters.

The tapes released last week by Project Veritas revealed not only the stark hypocrisy of ABC News, but also the rank depravity of that organization for apparently covering up for a serial sexual abuser of young girls – and perhaps for his powerful friends as well. Making matters worse from a journalistic angle, both Amy Robach, the reporter involved, and her employer issued absurd statements attempting to deflect scrutiny of this clear ethical breach.

In the hot-microphone clip, the “Good Morning America” co-host and “20/20” co-anchor bemoans that “I’ve had this story for three years. … We [ABC] would not put it on air.” Speaking of her Jeffrey Epstein expose, she continues: “It was unbelievable. … We had Clinton, we had everything.” Robach also implicates a British royal, stating she had “whole allegations about Prince Andrew,” and that when the “palace” threatened ABC, the network buckled, in part, to ensure future access to Kate Middleton and Prince William. Robach also asserts that “Jeffrey Epstein was the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known.”

In her post-release explanation for those assessments, Robach tried to dismiss the tape as a “private moment of frustration.” First, it certainly was not private. She was a two-decade TV veteran, mic’d up and on camera, apparently conversing with several people in an ABC studio. This episode involved no hidden recordings or subterfuge. Second, regarding her “frustration,” how about considering the angst and lifetime scars carried by the victims of Epstein? According to Robach, her own information on this case would have validated their accusations years before the Miami Herald finally brought the case to wider exposure, leading to new charges against Epstein.

ABC’s corporate statement was an even worse affront to believability and to journalistic ethics. The network claimed that “not all of our reporting met our standards to air.” Really, ABC? Were these rigorous newsroom “standards to air” employed when ABC rushed to broadcast the exclusive, tear-drenched interview of “MAGA Country” scam artist Jussie Smollett, without any verification of his inane claims? By the time that embarrassing fable aired, staffers at ABC already doubted Smollett’s version, as did every reporter who bothered to spend two minutes talking to Chicago police sources. But alas, ABC put the narrative front and center, irrespective of the evidence. The idea of phantom “MAGA thugs” (good luck finding such creatures in my hometown of Chicago, by the way) beating and denigrating a gay black actor proved too confirming of ABC’s bias to resist running the ludicrous interview.

But placing narrative before facts sadly forms a bit of tradition at ABC. Consider, for example, its 2017 “bombshell” report that Gen. Michael Flynn would testify that candidate Trump instructed him to contact Russia during the heat of the election. Instead, the network had to backtrack completely and concede the Flynn overture occurred after the election, when Trump was president-elect and very properly reaching out to governments globally. In this case, the sequencing gaffe is hardly immaterial.  

So, why did ABC quash the Epstein story? The only honest answer so far is that we just do not know. But we do know that Robach’s clear confession/rant, plus the network’s own history, strongly suggest that arduous fact-checking was not the real reason. The obvious suspicion is that ABC wanted to protect powerful people, most especially the Clintons. One does not have to be a conspiracy nutter to believe that we still need to learn a lot more about Epstein’s life – and death. We also know that if ABC ever wants to be taken seriously as a news organization, it must eschew the present tactics of wagon-circling and instead take a brutal look inward at how this fiasco unfolded.  

On a wider scale, traditional media outlets outside of ABC also seem unwilling to grapple with this news-suppression scandal. For example, according to Fox News, as the outrage permeated social media last Tuesday after the video release that morning, from noon Eastern Time until midnight, there was no mention of the tape at all on MSNBC, CBS, or NBC. On my news channel, CNN, there has been zero on-air coverage all week long, all the way through Sunday when we air a show specifically dedicated to covering the news media.  

The reticence of even competitors to discuss the story unmasks the kind of group-think that presently poisons so much of corporate media. Narrative conformity, it seems, prevails over the healthy spirited desires to outperform competitors and, when appropriate, highlight their ethical lapses. Such unanimity proves to Americans that the media in the age of Trump act far more like an opposition clique than hustling truth-seekers. Reflective of this unnatural fraternity, CBS last week even fired Ashley Bianco, a former ABC News employee whom that network suspected of leaking the damaging Robach footage. But Bianco did nothing wrong at CBS, denies the ABC leak allegation, and the head of Project Veritas insists the real informant remains employed at ABC.

As deleterious as the crisis in journalism is for our country, it does also represent political opportunity for President Trump. Fair-minded American voters will rally, again, to a scrappy fighter they can plainly see being harassed by a biased press. Plus, the media remain intractably unpopular. A 2018 Axios poll found that 70% of Americans believe traditional news outlets purposefully publish fake or misleading stories. An earlier Associated Press survey showed that only 6% of Americans view the press with “a great deal of confidence.”

Therefore I urge the president to keep pushing back on corporate media. Trump is the Floyd Mayweather of politics, the consummate counterpuncher. Like “Money” Mayweather, Trump can repel the opposition media attacks to win reelection.

Steve Cortes is a contributor to RealClearPolitics and a CNN  political commentator. His Twitter handle is @CortesSteve.

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