Bozell & Graham Column: Thou Shalt Not Question Mueller

The television networks have flooded us with hours and hours of coverage of the Robert Mueller probe, still looking under every rock for some sign of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. But on May 5, a federal judge harshly blasted Mueller’s tactics in court, even going to far as to challenge the scope of his authority in this probe. 

Was this a big story for our objective press, insisting they give us a dispassionate examination of the facts? No. NBC and CBS gave it 30 seconds combined. ABC devoted two minutes to it and that was that.

A new Media Research Center study shows in the first four months of 2018, these three networks have aired 320 minutes of evening-news coverage of the Russia investigation, and the tone for Trump was 98 percent negative. When you’re this close to perfectly negative, why wreck the trend? 

At least the Washington Post put the judge’s bombshell rebuke on the front page Saturday. The New York Times buried it on the bottom of  A-13, below other Trump-scandal stories.

On the taxpayer-subsidized airwaves, PBS NewsHour offered nothing. NPR asked one question to a reporter at the end of an interview on Saturday morning’s Weekend Edition. This was a story breaking on a Friday, but it didn’t make either network’s regular “Week in Review” panel.

This was a test for the Mueller-obsessed media – and they flunked. They are thoroughly invested in how Mueller’s team can help them damage, or even end the Trump presidency. They have zero interest in undermining their white knight. Apparently they’re not alone. 

''You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud,'' federal judge T. S. Ellis III scolded Mueller’s team during a court hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. ''You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.'' 

He added, ''I don't see what relation this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate....'What we don't want in this country is we don't want anyone with unfettered power.''

It can’t get much tougher than that. 

Mueller would appear to have unfettered power over the networks, too. While they have used the Russia investigation to bury Trump in negative evaluations, they haven’t shown any interest in transparency for Mueller and his supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Judge Ellis and House Republicans have demanded the Mueller fully disclose the (so far heavily redacted) contents of the Rosenstein instructions he was given as to the scope of his investigation. 

On January 3, when Manafort’s lawyers challenged Mueller’s investigation as too broad, ABC gave that one 51 seconds, NBC gave it 30 seconds, and CBS gave it 13 seconds. Add it up, and so far this year, by our count, the networks have devoted roughly four minutes to serious allegations of Mueller’s overreach with a team of investigators who clearly believe they have the power to delve into anyone’s private life if it will harm the president.  

That’s sure not how these transparently liberal networks treated Kenneth Starr when he threatened the Clinton presidency. Back then, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that in the last four months of 1998, Ken Starr’s network evening-news evaluations were 13 percent positive, and 87 percent negative. In the same time frame, Bill Clinton received 37 percent positive coverage -- while he was being impeached! 

Liberals pretend that criticizing or questioning  Mueller reeks of obstruction of justice, but the public isn’t buying this nonsense. The Media Research Center has documented that from January to April, there was another long stretch of 90 percent negative coverage on the evening news. Yet Trump’s approval ratings went up.  


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