BuzzFeed, Covington and the Media’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

January 26th, 2019 4:00 PM

It was remarkable to behold.

In the space of a handful of weekend hours, the liberal media shot itself in its proverbial foot.  Not once - but twice. 

The first time was a report from BuzzFeed. The internet news outlet had run with the story that ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was telling investigators that President Trump had directed him to lie to Congress about the Trump Organization’s plans to build a luxury high-rise in Moscow.

The media, hearing this, ran with it, swallowing the tale hook, line and sinker. Impeachment suddenly became the magic word of the day - excitedly repeated relentlessly over 200 times. And then - the balloon popped. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office issued a statement that said of the BuzzFeed story, in essence, it just ain’t so. 

The headline at Fox was this: “CNN, MSNBC mentioned Trump impeachment nearly 200 times Friday before BuzzFeed report was discredited.  

The Fox story began this way: 

“CNN and MSNBC gushed over impeachment nearly 200 times based on a Thursday BuzzFeed report, before it was discredited by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

CNN and MSNBC couldn’t confirm BuzzFeed’s now-debunked report claiming President Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress – but that didn’t stop the networks from using it as the impetus to talk about impeachment throughout the day.”

Fox, of course, was not the only outlet that reported the rush to impeachment story-line. There were, for once, red faces in media-land. Their favorite prosecutor had taken BuzzFeed, and in a very real sense, all the rest of the media, to the woodshed.

As this was slowly sinking in, of a sudden another story entirely appeared on the scene. As the annual March for Life ended on Saturday, out of the blue came a tale of Kentucky school boys taunting an elderly Native American man. There was, of course, video. It went everywhere —  and the liberal media pounced. (Not to mention some conservatives, more of which in a moment.) 

The theme was instantly set. There was a group of white boys, rowdy teenagers, from —  horrors! —  a Catholic school. And the boys had surrounded this Native American, deliberately and with arrogant malice aforethought, displayed their racist white privilege to humiliate the older man. In the blink of a tweet, the story rocketed around the media world, perhaps not accidentally wiping the BuzzFeed embarrassment out of the headlines. Here’s a sample headline from the Los Angeles Times: “Students in MAGA hats taunt Native American veteran; Kentucky diocese investigates.” 
The story that followed in the Times was a dispatch from the Associated Press, which means the story-line was sent to all AP clients. The AP story began: 

“A diocese in Kentucky apologized Saturday after videos emerged showing students from a Catholic boys’ high school mocking Native Americans outside the Lincoln Memorial after a rally in Washington.

The Indigenous Peoples March in Washington on Friday coincided with the March for Life, which drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, including a group from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills.

Videos circulating online show a youth staring at and standing extremely close to Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Native American man singing and playing a drum.
Other students, some wearing Covington clothing and many wearing "Make America Great Again" hats and sweatshirts, surrounded them, chanting, laughing and jeering.”

Ahh. But no fast. Not long after this story was dominating the media universe, sparking all manner of haughty lectures about red MAGA hats, racist Trump supporting kids and, subtext, bigoted Catholics - more video arrived. Lots of it, in fact. Now a whole other story, infinitely more complete emerged. 

It seems the boys, minding their own business and waiting for their bus, had been harassed by a group calling themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites. The small group of men yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the boys. Into the scene walks the now momentarily famous Native American, a longtime leftist activist and ex-Marine named 64 year-old Nathan Phillips. Beating a drum, he walks directly into the crowd of boys and confronts one in particular, beating the drum in the face of Covington student Nicholas Sandmann —  the latter remaining motionless, smiling.

All of which is to say, the original story - like the BuzzFeed Cohen story from hours before —  was now widely recognized as fake news.  Flat out untrue. Appropriately, there were some liberal media types who coughed up apologies. In the world of conservatives, stunningly National Review had joined in the left-wing mob action. Deputy Managing Editor Nicholas Frankovich said, in part, this:

“They mock a serious, frail-looking older man and gloat in their momentary role as Roman soldiers to his Christ. “‘Bullying’ is a worn-out word and doesn’t convey the full extent of the evil on display here. As for the putatively Catholic students from Covington, they might as well have just spit on the cross and got it over with.”

Frankovich was far from alone in the world of the conservative commentariat. And once the true story came clear, NR took the post down with apologies forthcoming.

There are two questions here.

First, how in the world could the liberal media make the same mistake literally within hours on two completely different stories. Even the liberal Whoopi Goldberg on The View had the presence of mind, in a discussion of the BuzzFeed episode, to ask: “So many people admitted they made snap judgments before all these other facts came in. ... Why is that? Why do we keep making the same mistake?” 

Amazingly as it may seem, the truth came in a response from ultra-lefty and fellow panelist Joy Behar, who said —  to applause, no less —  “Because we’re desperate to get Trump out of office.”


In fact the media’s missteps in the treatment of the BuzzFeed and Covington Catholic story spring from that one source: sheer hatred not just of President Donald Trump but of his supporters.  Hence all the fury directed at those red MAGA hats - hats that bear a slogan first used not by Donald Trump but by Ronald Reagan - and, yes indeed, Bill Clinton. The American “fake news” media, so obsessed by its Trump Derangement Syndrome, will in fact repeatedly report anything that they think is useful in eradicating the Trump presidency and discrediting Trump supporting Americans. 

Recall this headline: “CNN, MSNBC Say ‘Impeachment’ 222 Times in One Day.” 

No, this headline is not about the same January, 2019 story quoted above from Fox that refers to what happened in the wake of the BuzzFeed report. The headline directly above is to be found right here at NewsBusters . 

In a report from NewsBuster’s own Bill D’Agostino, there was a veritable media mania at that time - six months ago - when Michael Cohen made his guilty plea concerning campaign violations. Bill wrote this, in part: 

“Liberal cable news outlets evidently had their own fairy tale ending in mind when former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations: impeachment. On Wednesday, CNN and MSNBC reporters, anchors, and paid contributors used the word an absurd 222 times in 18 hours.”

In other words? Whether it was August of 2018, or now January of 2019, whether the story at hand was a Michael Cohen pleading, a BuzzFeed report on a supposed Trump directive to lie to Congress or a group of Covington Catholic boys confronted by a far-left Native American (who, it was eventually realized, was caught lying about having served in Vietnam —  he didn’t) - the impulse is the same: Get Trump, the facts be damned. 

Bad enough as that is, it is even more troubling when conservatives out there leap on the liberal media bandwagon without making certain that they have all the facts in the first place - not to mention seeming not to realize that mindlessly doing so aids and abets progressives whose long term objectives bode nothing but ill for conservatism not to mention America itself.

But if anything is crystal clear with the liberal media’s very bad weekend, it is that so obsessed is the media that they will in fact report fake news even if it damages their own reputation for truthfulness - a reputation that is already in tatters.