TheFederalist.com's Mollie Hemingway appeared Saturday morning on Fox & Friends: Weekend to discuss NBC's botched "Michael Cohen was wiretapped" story, which is only the latest in a long line of establishment press stories subsequently requiring major corrections or retractions.
Hemingway observed that the errors "always go in one direction."
NBC News initially reported that Cohen's phones were "tapped," as seen in the earliest version of the story captured at Archive.org. (When retrieved at 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, the page, unless interrupted during loading, went to "404-Not Found"; the full embarrassing story is saved here for future reference.)
The network's blatant bias can be seen in how it categorized the story:
Really now: "Trump Effect"? In a story about what hostile "federal investigators" allegedly did to spy on Trump's lawyer? Does anyone think the network has or had a negatively-oriented "Obama Effect" category?
NBC's report relied entirely on anonymous sources who were referenced a half-dozen times. Thursday evening, Curtis Houck at NewsBusters noted that, as has so often happened during the past several years, the network had to issue a "massive correction" acknowledging that, in NBC's words, "the monitoring of the calls was limited to a log of calls":
That "Trump Effect" tag is useful, but not in the way NBC intends it. Instead, it serves as a de facto flag for stories which are journalistically suspect.
Hemingway, the first recipient of the Noel Sheppard Blogger of the Year Award in 2015, addressed that problem Saturday morning on Fox & Friends with co-hosts Ed Henry and Pete Hegseth:
Here's the relevant transcript:
PETE HEGSETH: How does a story like this happen, what does it say about the media it has happened often?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY: I think there are a couple of problems. One is that the media keep using anonymous sources who keep getting things wrong, and there's no accountability when you're using anonymous source. There's no way you can say, "Well, I know I shouldn’t be trusting this person," because we don't know the people who are involved.
The other issue is this sort of animosity toward Trump that make all the errors happen in one direction. This is not the first time there's been a major correction on a story that’s really big, and they always go in this sort of anti-Trump direction. That suggests that it’s not just what happens sometimes in journalism, which sometimes stories get wrong.
ED HENRY: People make mistakes.
HEMINGWAY: But there's something else going on here, that is something we also probably saw in the 2016 election: an inability to understand what was happening in the country, and just on a very important big story. And here, this is a big, important story.
HENRY: Sure, and another big important story to your point, when ABC News Brian Ross, they got that story wrong about Michael Flynn, which is that "he's prepared to testify that during the campaign he colluded with the Russians," that all of a sudden the narrative was true. And ABC bought it hard, and really, it blew up in their face.
HEMINGWAY: It's been happening throughout the media. CNN last had a series of problematic stories on the overall story of Russia collusion and investigation of same, including that they said that James Comey was going to testify that he never told Donald Trump he wasn’t under investigation when in fact he testified that he said it three times.
And again, no one is held accountable. No one gets fired, or very rarely does anyone get fired, or we (ever) see media taking it seriously.
ED HENRY: Rarely do we see a scoop saying, "Donald Trump is innocent."
HEMINGWAY: Well, and just yesterday, there was that big story about the judge saying about the Mueller probe that we have serious problems here. It's not that it didn't get coverage. But it didn't get that hysteria that you're seeing with so many other issues.
There's also the issue of how poorly the press addresses its errors when they occur.
Just one example: The Associated Press, like other media outlets, had to concede in late June of last year that only three intelligence agencies and the Director of National Intelligence (not 17 agencies) were involved in an assessment alleging that Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during the 2016 elections.
Instead of issuing a formal correction, the AP published a June 30 "clarification" on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend while failing to change several erroneous previous reports. A dispatch making the "17 agencies" claim even appeared after the "clarification" was posted. It's still present at APNews.com, ABC News, and numerous other AP-subscribing outlets.
Allahpundit at Hot Air brought up another nagging question on Friday:
NBC’s source didn’t deliver actual facts, so why not blow him up? It wouldn’t be a matter of pure payback for humiliating the network, either — although partly it would be that. It would perform a public service by alerting the rest of American media that NBC’s source is no longer to be trusted by anyone.
It's reasonable to believe that these unreliable anonymous sources aren't being exposed because they're a convenient, useful future source for additional unreliable but attention-getting, agenda-serving, sensational fake-news stories.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.