Accepting BuzzFeed (which the headline better describes) as a source of news is akin to taking the worst of the checkout counter tabloids as legitimate informational publications – unless you are inclined to believe that babies with psychic powers are taking over the earth and that Hillary Clinton is actually a space alien. Okay, that latter may require a bit more investigation.
But, media acceptance is exactly what happened when BuzzFeed published an explosive story that President Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, will testify that he was ordered to lie to Congress about a prospective Trump Organization real estate deal in Moscow. The story further alleged that Cohen’s testimony was corroborated by text messages, emails and the testimony of others.
While there had been some media conjecture about this from time to time, the BuzzFeed claims of documentation put the evidence-challenged hypothesis on steroids. The creative writers at BuzzFeed set off a feeding frenzy with the all-to-eager #NeverTrump Resistance Movement within the Fourth Estate – meaning the Big Seven (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times and Washington Post) and all their littler media friends.
All the networks put the story at the top of the hour with works like “breaking news,” “bombshell,” “explosive” and “blockbuster.” The elitist east coast media pounced on this story like a pack of side-striped jackals on a wounded wildebeest. The so-called experts on those paid panels of parroting pundits were assembled to offer their predetermined opinions – which universally was that this was the beginning of the end for Trump and maybe even his children.
Democrat politicians, like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, gleefully rendered their verdict that Trump was guilty of suborning perjury and obstruction of justice – clearly impeachable crimes. The calls for impeachment now rose from the floor of the Congress.
Denials from Trump White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others were ignored, discredit and mocked by the major outlets as this bit of breaking news rolled on and on, hour after hour.
Then something truly newsworthy, extraordinary, unprecedented happened. The explosive bombshell blockbuster of the past 36 hours came crashing down like an Alpine avalanche when the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued this brief statement.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,”
It is almost impossible to understate the scope and importance of this repudiation. It is not the practice of investigators to respond or correct stories in the press even when they are wrong or inaccurate. It would take a ‘YUGE” falseness to trigger a response. That was clearly stated by former FBI Director James Comey in his sworn testimony before Congress. He told the members of Congress that news reports are OFTEN wrong, but it is not the Bureau’s policy to make public corrections.
We also know since the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, there have been no corrections or clarifications issued – even in stories that later proved to be inaccurate. To issues such a statement, Mueller had to authorize it, and he had to believe that the BuzzFeed article was egregiously false and posed a threat to the integrity of the investigation. While he may have ignored periodic inaccurate reports in the past, the BuzzFeed article had triggered such an enormous response in the press that it could not be left to drift unchallenged through the ranks of the anti-Trump media and Resistance Movement.
This left a lot of cable news personalities and pundits with a considerable portion of egg on their faces. Many of Trump’s harshest critics had to admit that the Mueller statement was a stunning repudiation of the original story and all the hyperbolic reporting that ensued.
While most media news recognized the fatal blow Mueller had dealt to the BuzzFeed story – calling it a total repudiation of the entire column – others tried to give it a different spin. One sized on the word ”specific” in the Special Counsel statement to suggest that perhaps, maybe there was at least a chance that they were only referring to a statement or two within the article.
CNN’s legal analyst Jeffery Toobin saw it as a sad day because, he argued, many in the public would seize on this to question the integrity of the anti-Trump media in general. Well, duh! It did not take long for Trump to tweet about the problem of the fake news industry. Toobin’s defense of the broader profession might have had some credibility if all those anti-Trump news outlets had not gone overboard in hyping the story as the end of the Trump administration.
Washington Post columnist and uber Trump hater, Max Boot, represented the contingency within the Resistance Movement that will surrender no ground to neither facts nor truth. He continues to claim that the Mueller statement does not necessarily mean that the article in BuzzFeed was not true because it did not specifically state which items were untrue in the judgment of the Special Counsel.
CNN may have had some intuition about the BuzzFeed story because when the story first broke – and she was interviewing co-author Anthony Cormier — Alisyn Camerota raised the question about the veracity of the other co-author, Jason Leopard. He has been the subject of several media scandals over the past 18 years – generally involving plagiarism and concocting false stories. Cormier assured Camerota that he had checked out the facts – although he admitted that neither of them had seen the so-called hard evidence. It was all gossip from unnamed sources.
As could be expected, the Mueller statement was not given the same reportorial intensity as the bogus BuzzFeed article. In fact, it was not even the lead story on a few of the programs – preferring to use the government shutdown as the media weapon of choice against the Trump administration.
The BuzzFeed story is both an indictment against a sleazy media outlet and a condemnation of the obsessively anti-Trump media that has been flying with only a left wing for far too long. It is a well-deserved comeuppance.
So, there’ tis