Press: Should the media apologize to Donald Trump?
After the release of the Mueller report, it only took two days for Attorney General William Barr to conclude there was not enough evidence to convict President Trump of obstruction of justice. It only took two minutes for Trump supporters to demand that members of the media apologize for their coverage of the Mueller investigation.
For 675 days, critics complain, reporters predicted that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report would drive Trump from office. Not only Trump himself, but also his sons, his daughter and his son-in-law would all be handcuffed and frog-marched off to federal prison for crimes worse than Watergate.
But that’s not what the Mueller report said. Instead, it accused Trump and his immediate family of committing no crimes at all. Whereupon Fox News host and Trump confidant Sean Hannity warned: “the mainstream media have lied to the American people for two plus years. Now they will be held accountable.”
OK, no doubt about it. Granted, the final Mueller report is far less damaging than most people expected and many news outlets predicted. Does that mean the media owes Trump an apology? Hell no. While Mueller did not recommend Trump’s indictment — which nobody could really expect, given Justice Department policy about not indicting a sitting president — his investigation still uncovered more than enough wrongdoing by Trump associates to merit its extraordinary media coverage.
Start with the fact that, for almost two years, the president of the United States was under criminal investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice. No matter how it ended up, that’s newsworthy, impossible to ignore. Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon experienced the same media saturation.
Plus, short of branding Trump a criminal, the Mueller investigation did reveal a great deal of information about other crimes and questionable behavior committed by Trump and his associates. In fact, three corporations and 34 individuals have been indicted for criminal behavior, including six top members of Trump’s team: campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy campaign chairman Richard Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, personal attorney Michael Cohen, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and political trickster Roger Stone. Again, that’s newsworthy.
On collusion, while Mueller concluded he could not prove without a reasonable doubt that the Trump team conspired to collude with Russia, we did learn that they at least tried: through meetings with Papadopoulos, negotiations to build a luxury hotel in Moscow, and the infamous Trump tower meeting organized by Donald Trump Jr.
And on obstruction of justice. Even without committing an actual crime, we learned that Trump did try to undermine the FBI probe by firing former FBI Director James Comey, pressuring then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, attacking Mueller’s team of investigators and, according to Factbase, denouncing their work as a “witch hunt” no less than 261 times, as of March 18.
Thanks to Mueller, we also learned that Trump lied when he insisted that no member of his team ever met with Russian operatives, when he said he was pursuing no business deals with Russia, and when he said he knew nothing about hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. That’s newsworthy.
Just because its final report accuses Trump of no crime, to suggest that the media was wrong in covering all that did surface during the Mueller investigation is simply absurd.
O.J. Simpson wasn’t convicted of murder, either. But the media then was never asked to apologize for covering the trial. And today’s media should never apologize for its reporting on the Mueller investigation, either.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.