Media is back to anonymous, one-source stories on Trump
It feels like old times. In the wake of the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, the mainstream media are in a feeding frenzy the likes of which we haven’t seen since he exited the White House. The usual suspects, like The New York Times and Washington Post, which spent the four years of Trump’s presidency consistently and spectacularly beclowning themselves, are at it again.
Dare we say that it has “all the hallmarks” of media incompetence?
Take The Washington Post: Using its signature anonymous single-source style, it broke the alleged news that Trump was in possession of documents “related to nuclear weapons.” What exactly does that mean? Honestly, based on Post’s coverage of Russiagate, when so many “bombshells” fizzled when the details emerged, you have to wonder if it’s the White House pastry chef’s recipe for nuclear chocolate cake.
The Times, meanwhile, informs us that Trump sought to send a secret message to Attorney General Merrick Garland, this according to — wait for it — “a person familiar with the exchange.” A person. This is basically the journalistic equivalent of “My cousin’s girlfriend knows a guy.”
Could these juicy details rushed into print turn out to be true? Maybe. Do the American people have good reason to believe they aren’t true given the recent track record of the liberal press? Absolutely.
After all, we watched these selfsame media treat the farcical Steele dossier like it was the fifth gospel and spend years clinging to the Russian-collusion hoax. We watched them not only bury the Hunter Biden laptop story just days before the 2020 election but smear the journalists who broke that very real story as dupes promoting Russian disinformation.
This print first, ask questions later approach is why Gallup found a record-low 16% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and just 11% do in TV news. There are probably communicable diseases that are more popular than the news media at this point. Back in 2014, before Trump broke the brains and standards of everyone with a journalism-school degree, both those questions had media trust about 10 points higher.
For seven years every story, big and small, has been treated like it might be the one that finally breaks the dam, that makes Republicans far and wide denounce Trump, makes his voters feel pangs of shame and maybe even leads to the perp-walk fantasy that never seems to die.
And it’s not just about Trump. When the Jussie Smollett hoax and the Nicholas Sandmann slander took place, the CNNs and MSNBCs of the world didn’t hesitate or gather facts, they leapt feet first into the narrative that these stories were evidence of the evil racism so supposedly pervasive in our society. Then the stories collapsed.
Sometimes it feels like we are minutes away from our legacy newspapers manipulating the weather report to push climate alarmism or the baseball standings to promote equity among the ball clubs.
Our news media have gotten so much so fabulously wrong so fantastically often that one might expect a dollop or two of self-examination from them. But as the stampede of half-baked, shaky stories about the Trump raid rain down on us, it is perfectly clear that the liberal media have learned nothing. There is every reason to believe that many of these journalists will win awards for their fake news and refuse to give them back in two or three years when the actual truth comes out. Rinse and repeat.
The progressives who run our newsrooms see existential threats to democracy everywhere they look, except in the mirror. But how can a nation that does not trust its newspapers possibly function properly as a democracy? And how can we trust our newspapers when they err so grievously and refuse to ever admit they got anything wrong?
If trust is to return, it will come back slowly, but that process could begin today if these outlets would just take a breath, report the facts and stop acting like they are on some holy anti-Trump crusade. It really is up to them.
David Marcus is a Brooklyn-based columnist and author of “Charade: The Covid Lies That Crushed a Nation.”