Right wing criticizes media for lack of coverage on Durham probe
Conservatives and other allies of former President Trump are criticizing the media for not providing more coverage on the latest developments in special counsel John Durham’s probe into the origins of the 2016 Russian collusion investigation.
Trump allies such as former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel have ripped the media, arguing the latest news on Durham’s probe is not getting the same attention as various stories about the former president.
“Virtually every baseless Russian collusion allegation against Trump got printed and aired for 4 years,” Meadows said on Tuesday. “But today there’s a fraction of coverage on actual evidence in a Durham indictment pointing to spying on candidate and President Trump.”
“Since Durham’s filing became public on Friday, NBC, ABC, and CBS have not mentioned it once on their morning or evening newscasts,” added McDaniel.
The latest development in the Durham investigation broke Friday, when Fox News reported that the special counsel had alleged in court that a tech executive “exploited” access to White House data in order to find damning information about Trump.
Durham is prosecuting a case against Michael Sussmann, an attorney who represented a tech executive alluded to in Durham’s filing. Sussman, who once worked on behalf of Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, faces one count of making false statements to the FBI’s general counsel.
He is specifically accused of falsely telling the FBI’s top attorney in a 2016 meeting that he was not representing any client when he presented data that researchers believed could have established a connection between Trump’s business and the Moscow-based Alfa Bank.
On Monday night, lawyers for Sussman argued the information Durham’s office submitted to the court was misleading and unnecessary and could only be intended to stir up media and jury bias against their client.
“Given the Special Counsel’s pattern of including unnecessary prejudicial material in public filings, there can be no doubt that the superfluous ‘Factual Background’ in the Special Counsel’s motion is intended to further politicize this case, inflame media coverage, and taint the jury pool,” they wrote in their brief Monday night.
Trump and his boosters have repeatedly sought to portray the former president as a victim of “spying” carried out by Clinton and top Democratic operatives during the 2016 campaign. They have also worked to play up news coming out of the Durham probe.
Friday’s news received heavy attention from Fox News and conservative outlets.
Tucker Carlson opened his top-rated show on Fox on Monday with the Durham story. The New York Post ran a headline on its cover Tuesday that read “HILLARY THE SPY,” while The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board penned an editorial titled “Trump really was spied on.”
Trump has repeatedly set up the media as an opponent to rile up his base, and the latest Durham news is a part of that pattern. The former president issued a statement on Monday morning blasting the media and comparing Durham’s accusation to the Watergate controversy.
Other cable news networks and news outlets began writing more about the story starting Monday.
On MSNBC on Tuesday, the panelists on “Morning Joe” dedicated more than 30 minutes to both Durham’s latest filing and coverage of it in conservative media.
They argued that the coverage from other outlets was over the top and overblown.
“A lot of charges [are] flying around,” host Joe Scarborough said during the discussion. “People are desperately trying to connect Hillary Clinton with this lawyer giving him money saying ‘go spy on Donald Trump.’ That never happened.”
“It was a 27-page indictment covering one specific count,” NBC News reporter Tom Winter added. “I think when you look at the totality of this, you know, time will tell whether or not payments [from the Clinton campaign] were made [to Sussman] and what those payments were for and whether or not it had to do with research and the Alfa Bank, which was something that most news organizations didn’t even touch. You’ll never find a story with my name on it, Pete Williams’s names on it, Ken Dilanian’s names on it. I throw the whole kitchen sink of reporters in here on the Alfa Bank allegations.”
Williams and Dilanian are also two members of the NBC News team, with Winter covering the Justice Department, intelligence and federal law enforcement.
“You know why? Because it is so confounding and so hard to follow,” Scarborough interjected.
Charlie Savage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The New York Times who specializes in national security legal policymaking, wrote on Monday that many of the narratives put forth in conservative media on the Durham probe are “based on a misleading presentation of the facts or outright misinformation.”
“They also tend to involve dense and obscure issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to expend significant mental energy and time — raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such claims,” Savage wrote. “Yet Trump allies portray the news media as engaged in a cover-up if they don’t.”
W. Joseph Campbell, a professor of communications at American University, suggested that one reason mainstream outlets have not covered the Durham investigation as vigorously as conservative outlets may be due to the difficulty of accurately framing what he called “process news.”
“Just because it’s complicated doesn’t excuse the news media for not giving it a whole lot of attention. It is important and potentially so and that alone would be an incentive for the news media writ large to take a deeper interest in this,” Campbell said. “The impatience with process news runs deep. And there is a lot of process news in this town, so that may be an explanation.”
Campbell said the filings for Durham do have news value, however, because they offer a glimpse into “what he’s looking at.”
Still, for conservatives, the Durham probe remains a point of contention, and some are floating it as a basis for congressional investigation if Republicans retake the majority following the midterm elections.
“Unfortunately, we cannot rely on legacy media to perform its most basic duties in covering the matter,” said Mike Howell, who leads the Heritage Foundation’s Conservative Oversight Project.
“After years of parroting the left’s false collusion narrative, politically motivated news organizations are largely refusing to acknowledge this scandal,” he said. “While the special counsel’s work must proceed uninhibited, Congress should make ample use of its oversight powers to immediately get answers and ensure bipartisan accountability. We must ensure the American people fully understand what happened so they will demand better leadership.”