On Tuesday night, CNN aired one of the most important documentary specials of the year, "The Russian Connection: Inside the Attack on Democracy," which was reported by Jim Sciutto, CNN's chief national security correspondent and one of the best journalists on the national security beat.
The CNN special walked viewers through the chronology of the Russian conspiracy designed to undermine and discredit American democracy, attack Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE and elect Donald Trump as president.
The CNN documentary equaled the best work of CBS News in the glory days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. It laid out, accurately and succinctly, the details of the Russian cyberattack on the American election in 2016, which is part of the larger Russian strategy of waging cyberwar against democratic nations throughout Europe and America.
These are challenging times for the free press. On one hand, there was, without doubt, a Russian conspiracy to elect Trump, which was orchestrated in secret and is now being investigated in highly-classified hearings in Congress and highly-classified investigations by the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
On the other hand, America is governed by a president who has a disturbing habit of saying things that are not true, attacking and firing leaders of major investigations and using the language of dictators to attack the leading institutions of the free press, falsely accusing them of being enemies of the people.
It is true that in one recent piece that ran on the CNN website, which had only one unnamed source, CNN got it wrong. It is equally true that once this became apparent, CNN stepped up to the plate, admitted the mistake, accepted the resignation of those who made it, reiterated its strong editorial standards and ensured that procedures are in place to prevent mistakes from happening in the future.
How many times have President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, or others in the administration publicly made statements that were proven false and then stepped up to the plate the way CNN did?
Above all, it is true that virtually all of the major reports on scandals that surround the Trump administration from CNN, the Washington Post the New York Times and other major news organizations have stood the tests of truth and time.
The CNN special documentary about the Russian connection was one of many shining examples of first-rate journalism that have been produced by CNN and other key news organizations. Everyone at CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times and others who produce first-rate journalism under difficult circumstances should be proud of their work, which serves our country and elevates the profession of journalism.
America and Western democracy are under sustained attack from a Russian dictator that seeks to dominate and discredit democracy through infowar, cyberwar and Cold War-style espionage.
The president should be more interested in finding out the truth and punishing the guilty — assuming he and his close advisors are innocent of any potential wrongdoing — than attacking the free press and appearing at times to be more interested in covering up the crime or pretending it did not happen.
CNN and the other bastions of the free press are not the enemies of the people, they are the friends of facts and truth that protect our democracy. They should keep up their good work, which they surely will. America is under attack from a hostile foreign power and needs our great free press more than ever.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He is a longtime regular columnist for The Hill and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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