The mainstream news media is addicted to Twitter because it is an easy source for lazy stenographic reporting. Published “news” articles and television broadcasts almost daily begin with stories such as this: Trump retweets some 60 anti-Biden tweets, elevating some questionable accounts.
Many of these “news” stories have captions like “Trump says…” and then stenographically report what he said in a tweet. Other reporters attempt to fact check him, but the fact check is buried several paragraphs into the report where most Americans have already stopped reading (most Americans only skim the headlines). By reporting Trump rage tweets as “news,” the mainstream media is simply amplifying his disinformation propaganda (lies) to a wider audience. They are in effect aiding and abetting his propaganda machine.
As Julia Conley reports, “When using social media to report on President Donald Trump’s comments, many major corporate media outlets often succeed only in amplifying his misinformation and lies instead of setting the record straight, according to a new study.” New study exposes how the media is complicit in Trump’s assault on reality:
After examining about 2,000 tweets from more than 30 Twitter accounts controlled by major news sources over three weeks earlier this year, Media Matters for America (MMFA) reported Friday that the accounts simply spread Trump’s lies 65 percent of the time, without providing context or disputing his remarks.
Matthew Gertz’s report, Study: Major media outlets’ Twitter accounts amplify false Trump claims on average 19 times a day (excerpt):
Trump makes false claims frequently, and the media outlet Twitter feeds we studied frequently repeat his lies.
Media outlets put a great deal of focus on Trump’s comments — roughly one out of every five tweets mentioning Trump was about a particular quote. We found that that content strategy leaves outlets vulnerable to passing on the president’s misinformation, as 30% of those Trump quotes contained a false or misleading claim.
News outlets can report on Trump’s falsehoods without misleading their audience if they take the time to fact-check his statements within the body of their tweets. But we found that that isn’t happening consistently — in nearly two-thirds of tweets referencing false or misleading Trump claims, the media outlets did not dispute Trump’s misinformation.
All told, the Twitter feeds we studied promoted false or misleading Trump claims without disputing them in 407 tweets over a three-week period — an average of 19 undisputed false claims published each day.
The group found Trump’s lies about subjects including the Mueller report, North Korea, and his claim that former President Barack Obama was spying on him were amplified by NBC, ABC, and other sources more than 400 times over the course of the study, or an average of 19 times per day.
The findings left MMFA convinced that the news media is failing during Trump’s presidency in many of the same ways it did during his 2016 presidential campaign.
“News outlets are still failing to grapple with a major problem that media critics highlighted during the Trump transition: When journalists apply their traditional method of crafting headlines, tweets, and other social media posts to Trump, they end up passively spreading misinformation by uncritically repeating his falsehoods,” said Rob Savillo, a senior fellow and data analyst at MMFA, who co-authored the report.
About 30 percent of the tweets MMFA examined contained quotes from the president, with the quotations often making up the entire tweet.
The findings have major implications for how the press is helping Trump to spread misinformation, MMFA said, pointing to an earlier study by the American Press Institute which showed that many social media users only read a tweeted article’s headline or the text within a post instead of reading whatever context exists in an article, which outlets often link to in their tweets.
“The way people consume information in the digital age makes the accuracy of a news outlet’s headlines and social media posts more important than ever,” wrote Savillo and co-author Matt Gertz. “But journalists are trained to treat a politician’s statements as intrinsically newsworthy, often quoting them without context in tweets and headlines and addressing whether the statement was accurate only in the body of the piece, if at all.”
Most of the lies were spread after Trump hosted informal news briefings known as press gaggles and after his interviews with the press. News outlets passed along his false statement without debunking them 92 percent of the time during the former and 73 percent of the time during the latter.
The online news source The Hill amplified the most lies and misinformation, according to MMFA. [The Hill website automatically redirects to Fox News and partners with the right-wing website Newsmax]. The website’s Twitter account sent 40 percent of the misleading or false tweets containing Trump’s quotes or ideas, and passed along incorrect information from the president 88 percent of the time it tweeted about him.
“The Hill also frequently resends the same tweet at regular intervals, not only amplifying his falsehoods, but also making it more likely that the misinformation will stick with its audience through the power of repetition,” wrote Savillo and Gertz.
ABC News amplified Trump’s lies about 74 percent of the time, and even major cable networks that spread misinformation less frequently did so more than half the time. NBC News amplified bad information 52 percent of the time it tweeted about Trump and MSNBC did so 55 percent of the time.
NPR and the Washington Post were among the best performers. The Post disputed the president’s claims 33 out of the 37 times it tweeted about them, and NPR tweeted Trump’s quotations only 20 times. The outlet corrected Trump’s false statements all four times it shared them with the public.
“The results were striking,” the researchers wrote, “demonstrating that media outlets have a serious, ongoing problem dealing with passive misinformation.”
Back in 2015 I explained how the mainstream news media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, made exclusive agreements with Peter Schweizer from Breitbart News, the author of the factually flawed “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” for opposition research on Hillary Clinton. The Hunting of The President: The Sequel. The New York Times was particlarly egregious in using his factually flawed opposition research to attack Hillary Clinton in its reporting, amplifying Trump’s campaign attacks.
Something similar is now emerging for Joe Biden. The New York Times reported this past week that Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies:
[O]ne of Mr. Biden’s most memorable performances came on a trip to Kiev in March 2016, when he threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.
The pressure campaign worked. The prosecutor general, long a target of criticism from other Western nations and international lenders, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.
Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s younger son, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.
Hunter Biden was a Yale-educated lawyer who had served on the boards of Amtrak and a number of nonprofit organizations and think tanks, but lacked any experience in Ukraine and just months earlier had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine. He would be paid as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his work for the company, Burisma Holdings.
The broad outlines of how the Bidens’ roles intersected in Ukrainehave been known for some time … But new details about Hunter Biden’s involvement, and a decision this year by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general to reverse himself and reopen an investigation into Burisma, have pushed the issue back into the spotlight just as the senior Mr. Biden is beginning his 2020 presidential campaign.
Wait for it …
[T]he renewed scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s experience in Ukraine has also been fanned by allies of Mr. Trump. They have been eager to publicize and even encourage the investigation, as well as other Ukrainian inquiries that serve Mr. Trump’s political ends, underscoring the Trump campaign’s concern about the electoral threat from the former vice president’s presidential campaign.
The Trump team’s efforts to draw attention to the Bidens’ work in Ukraine, which is already yielding coverage in conservative media, has been led partly by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for Mr. Trump in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Giuliani’s involvement raises questions about whether Mr. Trump is endorsing an effort to push a foreign government to proceed with a case that could hurt a political opponent at home.
Mr. Giuliani has discussed the Burisma investigation, and its intersection with the Bidens, with the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. He met with the current prosecutor multiple times in New York this year. The current prosecutor general later told associates that, during one of the meetings, Mr. Giuliani called Mr. Trump excitedly to brief him on his findings, according to people familiar with the conversations.
Mr. Giuliani … acknowledged that he has discussed the matter with the president on multiple occasions. Mr. Trump, in turn, recently suggested he would like Attorney General William P. Barr to look into the material gathered by the Ukrainian prosecutors — echoing repeated calls from Mr. Giuliani for the Justice Department to investigate the Bidens’ Ukrainian work and other connections between Ukraine and the United States.
When Senator Kamala Harris asked “Baghdad Bill” Barr if Donald Trump or anyone else at the White House had asked him to open an investigation into anyone, he hemmed and hawed and avoided answering the question. Saying “yes” would have been confirmation of the above, that Donald Trump has asked him to open an investigation into his political opponent Saying “no” would have opened him up to perjury charges.
Sen. Kamala Harris sent a letter to the Justice Department’s inspector general on Friday, requesting an investigation into whether Attorney General William Barr has acted upon requests or suggestions from President Donald Trump or other White House officials to investigate the President’s “perceived enemies.” Kamala Harris wants IG to investigate if Barr opened probes into Trump enemies at White House request:
In a letter addressed to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, the Democratic presidential candidate cites the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Barr’s Wednesday congressional testimony as the reasons for her letter.
“Such inappropriate requests by the President have been well documented,” Harris wrote. “Special Counsel Mueller … documented a disturbing pattern of behavior on the part of the President — repeated attempts to target his perceived opponents.”
“There must be no doubt that the Department of Justice and its leadership stand apart from partisan politics, and resist improper attempts to use the power of federal law enforcement to settle personal scores,” the letter reads.
This is the real scandal, a Nixonian use of the federal government to attack one’s political “enemies” — which led to an article of impeachment against Richard Nixon — but The media is already bungling its Trump re-election coverage:
Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was the single most-covered story of the entire campaign in 2016. Trump was key in this process: As the story went on, he would seize on any new development and blast it as part of his Crooked Hillary narrative. The press would then write stories about Trump’s statements and tweets. Rinse and repeat.
The outlines of a similar process are already taking shape for Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden over a scandal involving Ukraine. It’s EMAILS all over again.
Just as with Clinton, there is some genuine sleaze in the Biden story. As The New York Times reports, it goes back to 2016, when Biden was point man in the Obama administration’s effort to tamp down on corruption in Eastern Europe. He threatened to stop $1 billion in loan guarantees if the Ukrainian government didn’t sack their top prosecutor, who was widely viewed as corrupt. The guy was duly fired, and the guarantees went through.
But Biden himself had a conflict of interest due to his son Hunter, who “at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.” (The company is called Burisma Holdings.)
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But the way the Times reported this story is instructive. They put the juicy Biden details at the top, and buried by far the most important piece of news: that the president’s personal lawyer is working with the Ukrainian government on the Biden story. “Mr. Giuliani has discussed the Burisma investigation, and its intersection with the Bidens, with the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. He met with the current prosecutor multiple times in New York this year.” He discussed this with Trump, who then suggested Attorney General Barr should open an investigation. The idea is to both smear Biden and cast doubt on the Mueller investigation as somehow coming from a Democratic conspiracy with Ukrainians.
Top law enforcement authorities potentially conspiring with the president to conduct politically motivated prosecutions is hugely more important than anything Hunter Biden did. It’s awesomely corrupt — basically straight out of the aspiring dictator’s handbook. But the Times buried it way at the bottom of their article.
And what about this earlier interference with the Special Counsel’s investigation? Ukraine, Seeking U.S. Missiles, Halted Cooperation With Mueller Investigation: “[I]n Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.”
It’s easy to see where this is probably going to go. Ukrainian authorities, hoping for favorable treatment from the U.S., will open an official investigation of Biden and his son, and maybe even charge them with something or other. The corrupt attack dog Barr will investigate as well, dragging it out to maximize the damage. Trump will seize on the story, repeat “BIDEN SAVED HIS COKEHEAD SON FROM PROSECUTION” ten billion times, and the mainstream media will duly amplify his message.
“At any rate, it would be nice if the [mainstream] political press would do their jobs responsibly, and not enable Trump’s subversion of democracy. But I wouldn’t remotely expect it.”