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Media’s botched Trump attacks are a reckless attempt to undermine the administration

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This isn’t hyperbole: The past two weeks were two of the worst ever for American political media, all thanks to a rush to be first that easily trumped the priority of being accurate.

It already feels like months ago that ABC’s Brian Ross reported on national television that former national security advisor Michael Flynn was going to testify that candidate Donald Trump had ordered him to contact the Russians during the campaign, only to later clarify and eventually outright correct that the order came from President-elect Trump, with the conversation centering on fighting ISIS in Syria.

{mosads}Remember that time when Reuters and Bloomberg reported that Trump’s bank records were under subpoena? That was just six days ago. That turned out to not be true, either.


And of course, we had the CNN exclusive on Friday that was arguably as damaging to the network as the Ross report was to ABC. The original report stated Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials had received WikiLeaks documents and an encryption key 10 days before anyone else. CNN reporter Manu Raju depended on an email being read to him by multiple unnamed sources and didn’t wait to verify the information by seeing a copy of the email itself.

The Washington Post did take the time to obtain said email with the correct date in question, however. And after hours of CNN going wall-to-wall on its exclusive on Friday morning, the Post pushed back on the CNN account shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET, but not before CBS and NBC News somehow “confirmed” the same exact false information.

Later that afternoon, CNN issued a correction while stating that no reprimand was coming because “unlike with Brian Ross/ABC, Manu Raju followed the editorial standards process. Multiple sources provided him with incorrect info.”

So what are the three big things these stories have in common?

All pertain to the Russia investigation.

All are based solely on unnamed sources who likely have an agenda that goes well beyond just innocent whistleblowing.

All are profoundly negative toward the president.

The last point is something Trump supporters always point to on Twitter: Why is it that every story based on unnamed sources is always a negative one? And who are these sources? Are they political operatives? Lawmakers? What kind of access do they have to the president or to crucial information?

And while we’re on the subject of the Trump Jr./WikiLeaks story, how exactly did three major news organizations run with the same exact error around one date based on what their sources told them?

The only logical conclusion is that this misinformation was knowingly and purposely leaked in an effort to damage the administration.

The stories were corrected, sure. But the allegation always gets 100 times the play as the exoneration.

Case in point: CNN’s Jim Scuitto promoted the network’s exclusive on Twitter on Friday morning. Check out the number of retweets and likes on the now-debunked report: 

More than 2,300 retweets and 3,300 likes.

Later in the day, Scuitto rightly noted the story had been corrected, but didn’t delete the original tweet. Instead, he issued the correction below the original tweet, which contains false information. 

As you can see, there’s just 52 retweets and 148 likes, a fraction of what the original still-live tweet received. 

All of that said, the next step must be taken: The sources in this case need to be revealed.

Why? Because they likely have peddled false information before, if three news organizations accepted the information as fact. This person or these persons will undoubtedly do it again. To ensure this doesn’t repeat itself, they need to be exposed in the same way the Washington Post exposed a woman posing as a Roy Moore accuser for James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas last month.

More than 40 years ago, Watergate reporting by Woodward and Bernstein was mostly sober, careful and meticulous.

The rule then was “get it first, but get it right.” Now it’s invariably “put it out there and see what sticks. And if it’s wrong, news moves so fast and trust in media already is so low that the mistake will be forgotten in 24 hours anyway.”

Recent weeks have been our political media’s worst in recent or long-term memory.

The hope would be that we learn from these mistakes. But if the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s a sure bet history will continue to repeat itself.

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.

Tags American Media Donald Trump Donald Trump Joe Concha Russia Investigation

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