January 19, 2019

Mueller VS. BuzzFeed: Chattering Class Needs a Time Out

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsWhat a spectacle. The chattering news class, that collective gaggle of talking heads and news readers who can wax endlessly and eloquently (well, maybe not always so eloquently) about a snippet of unconfirmed and un-corroborated information, has some real soul searching to do. Great journalism requires determined vigor, not the lazy snatching of low hanging and often tasteless fruit.

The reader will recall that a few days ago the so-called news channels were ablaze, with hair-on-fire commentators reporting that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller had damning evidence of President Trump suborning perjury. According to BuzzFeed, Special Counsel Robert Mueller had solid evidence that President Donald Trump had directed his personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his pursuit of business deals in Russia.

Now, BuzzFeed is a formidable, far reaching, internet media and news company notwithstanding a number of botched or questionable news stories. This news flash was then shouted from the media rooftops by the chattering classes as truly damning evidence of criminality by the President of the United States, probably constituting grounds for impeachment. There was only one problem. Two important people came forward to, essentially, deny the story. One was President Donald Trump. The other was Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

To be specific, Special Counsel Mueller’s office issued this rare and unprecedented 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.” Which, we assume, means BuzzFeed’s characterization was, well, inaccurate.

Now, when was the last time you, the reader, ever saw or heard a prosecutor deny a news story about the evidence he or she had about the target of an investigation. Well, more than likely, never. Prosecutors rarely comment about news stories, especially when the story is about the strength of the prosecutor’s case. It’s simply not their responsibility to confirm or deny the accuracy of press speculation. But, in this case, the Special Prosecutor apparently considered the BuzzFeed story so misleading, and the case at hand so important, that he felt compelled to issue a written statement characterizing BuzzFeed’s story as inaccurate.

Supposedly, BuzzFeed’s report was based on information from two law enforcement officials with “direct knowledge” of Mueller’s investigation. That’s it. Two mysterious, ethereal, law enforcement officials are the source of a “stop-the-presses” story that the Mueller investigation, essentially, calls wrong.

So, what do we really know? Well, essentially, nothing. The sensational BuzzFeed story advances our knowledge of the investigation not a nit. BuzzFeed’s retort to the Special Counsel’s smackdown was a rather anemic, “we stand by our story.” Well, that’s nice, but, it seems no one else who matters does stand by the BuzzFeed story, certainly not the unidentified “law enforcement officials.”

This sort of amateurish reporting of uncorroborated information provided by unidentified sources is destructive to meaningful public discourse. Worse, it provides ammunition to those who buy into the Trump narrative that the mainstream news is fake news and the enemy of the people. Here we have a scathing report about an apparently clear instance of presidential criminality disavowed by the one office charged with determining whether or not there has been criminal behavior by the President or his campaign.

What should CNN and MSNBC, Fox, the networks, and every newspaper in the country have done with this story. Absent corroboration, from more than the anonymous sources (and there was none) they should have ignored the BuzzFeed story. The potential for damage is simply too great not to demand corroboration when a story of this importance is set loose upon the body politic.

This spectacle of false information running rampant has a long pedigree. Over three hundred years ago, fellow essayist, Jonathan Swift, wrote, “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it. BuzzFeed might heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin who wrote, “Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn and she has neither vigor nor activity enough to pursue and overtake her enemy.”

And so “the news” that the Special Counsel has evidence the President ordered his lackey, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress has, more than likely, been embraced by many more people than has the disavowal of that story by Mister Mueller. Regardless of one’s opinion of President Trump, that is sad and certainly not in the interest of justice.


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18 responses to “Mueller VS. BuzzFeed: Chattering Class Needs a Time Out”

  1. Perry says:

    There seems to be so much incorrect information being fed to
    the American public today one has to sift through all of it to determine for themselves what is news and what is truly fake.

    In my long history I have never seen so much news which I distrust and it’s not just with Buzzfeed source it is with major networks and their own vaunted and previously respected

    While it is true our current POTUS is certainly fair game but all too often today the stories about him are all too slanted against his presidency and often omit any accomplishment

    With so many resources available today it is staggering to me
    that we indeed are subject to many “Fake” news stories.

  2. Red Pill Jew says:

    With a mainstream media like this, who needs Russians? The American left is Putin’s wet dream.

  3. Andy Lask says:

    It’s stories like this and the reaction of the mainstream media (whatever that means) along with the socialist elements of the Democratic Party which make it easy for a moderate republican (me) vote for Trump. The media will end up being an inadvertent ally of Trump 2020.

  4. Sheila says:

    I deeply suspect that there is more to this story than meets the eye. It is clear that Mueller’s group didn’t issue a categorical denial. As one commentator put it, there is a wide ocean between the descriptors of “inaccurate” and “dead wrong”. There was no such “dead wrong” description of BuzzFeed’s article coming from Mueller’s office. My guess is that someone did leak the information – and Mueller had to subdue the response – for any number of reasons –not the least of which is that the details behind such information could endanger Cohen or his family and/or undermine Mueller’s investigation in some way.

    Unfortunately, it was a mistake for BuzzFeed to publish this very sensitive data – but before anyone goes off on the Democratic party or the legitimate “real news” media- at least do yourselves the favor of waiting for Mueller’s final report (assuming it will be made public without editing).

  5. Dan says:

    Anyone who has ever worked with the public relations agency or had direct contact with a reporter, fully understands that what is printed is either spoonfed to a journalist or the journalist cherry picks quotes from answers provided by its sources to support a predetermined story.

    Many of us have been quoted or interviewed by various publications and understand that it is more rare for the reporter to have gotten something right then to have gotten something wrong.

    When we see you television personalities on the news, they tend to be older than the journalists and producers that give them their information. As a result, I think we give the news more credit than it deserves. In a world that values speed, twenty-somethings are more likely to have written a news piece then forty year olds.

    Reagan once said, “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so”. Substitute “young journalist “ for “liberal” in the quote and you will find it quite instructive.

  6. Dan says:

    PS. Mistakes in grammar courtesy of Siri.

  7. Jerry Kessler says:

    It would be nice if the whole world read your terrific and to the point fair commentary-as you said though, truth is slow to catch up with “falsehoods that fly”.
    The best news, as I am an avid follower-at least until recently of the news-is that hopefully it will be over soon, although in some way-regardless of what the Mueller report says-or doesn’t say- I am sure it will never quite be over-at least for the next two years.

  8. Hal Gershowitz says:

    Regarding comment by Sheila. Mueller’s very carefully worded written statement calling the BUZZFEED characterization “not accurate,” does, in fact, suggest that it was dead wrong. “Accurate” or “inaccurate” represents the precision with which a prosecutor like Mueller would speak publicly about a press report. “Deadwrong”..,he’d leave to the chattering classes.

  9. Paul Silverstein says:

    Unquestionably the MSM has been on a quest to denigrate and marginalize Pres. Trump, deserved or not. The press has been loath to acknowledge any accomplishments he has achieved and if and when they do it’s always with faint praise. Many “bombshell” published reports such as the NYT’s front page article of Jan 11 entitled, “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia” provide no corroboration and not until the 9th paragraph do they make a weak acknowledgment of this sort.
    The press has lost its way and its value to our country and society by its blind bias against the President.
    They should be ashamed. No wonder much of the country has lost faith in them.

  10. Sheila says:

    My only point is that there is very likely more to this story than meets the eye. The publishing of this piece without Mueller’s blessing was a judgment error on the part of BuzzFeed, an impact which was compounded by other legitimate news sources. However, to use this event as an excuse to launch a wholesale attack on Democrats or on the mainstream media would be a terrible mistake and would serve only to divide the country and undermine our democracy even further. In my experience, the legitimate mainstream news reporters working for the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNN, the Economist, etc, are principled and careful in their reporting. I am not personally familiar with BuzzFeed but I have heard it quoted before on legitimate news channels.

    We all need to wait for the final Mueller report to understand fully the events that have happened in our country beginning with the last election campaign. And hopefully, the public will have the opportunity to see the report in its entirety.

  11. Andy Lask says:

    Sheila here is the statement on behalf of Mueller: “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,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.

    The house members jumped on this report and rather than wait to find out if it was accurate said if true, would be an impeachable offense. Those statements aren’t as troubling as the mainstream media’s reporting of this. They should not have reported this without verifying the veracity, Journalism 101. This supports the fake news label attributable to the main stream organizations. They’re all contributing to the divide within our country most republicans are convinced they do not treat republicans fairly and support democrats.

  12. Paul Silverstein says:

    Since writing my last post a new media frenzy erupted pertaining to a group of boys from a Catholic High School, some of whom were wearing MAGA caps, who were accused by many in the media of harassing an indigenous Vietnam veteran after the March for Life Rally in DC.
    However, somewhat later, the full story came forth from independent sources revealing that the initial recrimination was indeed fake news.
    It was posted in a rush to judgment and without proper corroboration.
    Here is the followup article exposing this shoddy corrupt journalism published online at Reason.com,
    “The Media Wildly Mischaracterized That Video of Covington Catholic Students Confronting a Native American Veteran
    Journalists who uncritically accepted Nathan Phillips’ story got this completely wrong.”
    The prior writer’s attempt to white-wash liberal journalists is misguided and is not dealing with the facts which are so apparent to those who seek the truth, can think for themselves and are not espousing any political party’s talking points.

  13. susan duman says:

    I’m late to the party today, so I am actually more struck by the disagreements following the essay than the essay itself.
    This does not bode well for any of us!

  14. Red Pill Jew says:

    Paul’s correct about the relevance of the Covington Catholic High School kids story to this one. I’ve spent a good deal of time looking through as much of the video of that incident as I can get my hands on, and not only did the media get this one wrong, they were 180 degrees off from the truth. The kids were the victims here, and the Native Americans were most certainly the aggressors. And they weren’t the only ones. I’ll try and sum up what appears to be the actual truth of what unfolded…

    1) Native Americans held a planned rally called “Indigenous People’s March”

    2) A radical group of racist African Americans calling themselves “Hebrew Israelites” held a counter protest, and were heckling the Indigenous People’s March with the most vile insults. This was caught on camera.

    3) Long after the heckling began, students from the high school started to congregate on the steps, as they were instructed to do, while waiting for their bus to pick them up. While waiting, they began performing their school chants/fight songs. Watching the videos closely leaves me with the impression that the kids might’ve been chanting to drown out what the “Hebrew Israelites” were shouting.

    4) Members of the Indigenous March heard the kids, saw their MAGA hats, and decided to confront them.

    5) The kids didn’t even understand what was going on at first. They were doing their thing and this guy with a drum appeared. The kids weren’t there to protest Indigenous people. They were there to catch a bus. So when the guy with the drum inserted himself into the middle of the high school group, they incorporated him into the cheer. Then, they started chanting with him. It wasn’t mockery. It was classic group behavior.

    6) Video CLEARLY shows the Indigenous people AND the “Hebrew Israelites” shouting vile obscenities and threatening violence against the kids.

    7) Michael Hodge, who stood silently while the “adult” harassed him, is seen in another clip trying to stop his friends from debating with the aggressive adults who were harassing them.

    8) Mainstream media outlets including the New York Times and the Washington Post failed to perform even the most basic of journalistic leg work to determine the facts of this situation. They ran with a narrative of ‘Racist white male Trump supporters abuse Native Americans.’

    9) Our bigoted social media linch mob culture, salivating for exactly that narrative, jumped all over it.

    10) So called civil conservatives bought the narrative too, and wasted no time virtue signaling all over these kids with their headlines and tweets declaring ‘We’re better than this!’

    11) The kids and their families have been doxxed by progressive media outlets, and are now receiving death threats.

    Imagine this was YOUR high schooler and tell me this wasn’t child abuse, first at the hands of bigoted protesters, and then by unhinged anti-Trump fanatics in the media and culture at large.

    America should take a great big look in the mirror after this one, and ask why we were so easily willing to destroy the lives of kids without even bothering to assess the facts.


  15. Andy Lask says:

    Mr. Red Pill thank you for the well written summary of events.

  16. Paul Silverstein says:

    Great recap Red. Did you ever think of journalism?

    Anyone remember Duke lacrosse, 2006?

  17. Amy says:

    We are missing the fundamentals of basic responsible journalism. Responsible journalism is exactly that, responsible…regardless of the age those writing and producing. Woodward and Bernstein were both under the age of 30 at the time they broke Watergate. Sadly, I trust very little of what I read, hear or watch, doesn’t matter which news outlet is reporting. This should be a wake up call to millions regardless of politics because in the end, we all lose.

  18. Red Pill Jew says:

    Thanks, Andy and Paul! One correction I need to make…The name of the student who stood silently is Nick Sandmann, not Michael Hodge as I erroneously wrote in #7 above.

    In the few hours since I posted that comment, even more video has surfaced that further confirms what really happened. It’s horrendous. These kids were the victims from the start, and our national media happened by to serve them up on a platter to eager diners, waiting to devour the latest evil Trump supporter, even if it’s a group of children. You can see the video at the link below, but I warn you, It’s NSFW.


    Kathy Griffen demanded the kids be doxxed. Other celebrities called for Sandmann to be punched in the face. This was really a new low for American culture, and all of those who sanctimoniously wrap themselves in a cloak of alleged tolerance and intellectual superiority.

    Maybe the good folks at OTIS can put together a post about all of the truly disgusting things alleged role models put out in response to these kids, keeping in mind that these are the same political/media celebrities who’ve been most vocally telling us Trump is unfit because he’s not a positive role model. He might not be, but I’m done hearing anything from people who are willing to destroy children just to satisfy their anti-Trump lust.

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