CNN recently debuted a new advertising campaign called “Facts First.” The debut video shows an apple on a white background accompanied by captions arguing that many would try to mislead people into thinking it is a banana when it is, in fact, an apple.
“This is an apple,” the captions read. “Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream, ‘banana, banana, banana,’ over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”
The video ends with the new slogan: “Facts first.”
Ironic then that the debut of their new slogan comes the same week as one of the most embarrassing retractions in recent memory. The story, which broke on its website Friday morning and discussed on air throughout the day, reports that the Trump campaign received an email offering special access to the hacked DNC emails before they were published to the public. The email, in CNN’s anti-Trump eyes, was a smoking gun because it was dated September 4, 2016, which would have been 10 days before WikiLeaks released the contents of the emails to the public.
“To make it easy to understand, this email would be as if someone contacted you and told you that they had robbed a bank, and give you a location of the storage locker where they stashed the money, and gave you a location for the lock on the door,” CNN correspondent Asha Rangappa said. “This is knowledge of potential stolen information, knowledge of a crime.”
Except CNN had it all wrong. The email was not dated September 4—which was the key fact underpinning the entire story—but was instead sent on September 14, a day after WikiLeaks published access to the DNC emails. This wasn’t WikiLeaks working in conjunction with the Kremlin to give the Trump campaign access to information to wield against Hillary Clinton, it was a random guy encouraging the Trump campaign to look at information that anyone with an internet connection had access to.
CNN was far from alone in their mistake. Other Democrat-friendly outlets gleefully followed suit, some even stating that they had “independently verified” the story. Among them were Brookings’, who tweeted the story with a single word “boom,” Talking Points Memo, whose story included an image of an atomic bomb detonating, CBS, which “confirmed” the story, and MSNBC, who got confirmation from “two sources with direct knowledge.”
How could everyone have independently misread the date on an email? And why, given the flurry of retractions, don’t we also get an explanation?
The answer, unfortunately, appears to be that it runs contra to the narrative.
The media very clearly doesn’t like Donald Trump and so they’ve built a world in which his campaign colluded with the Russian government to sway the election. Facts and truth weren’t their guide, they were instead retrofitted to meet the narrative, or forgotten about entirely when they couldn’t be made to be incriminating.
But in their breathless haste to cast Trump as the villain, the media has shown itself willing to set aside simple journalistic standards. And the result, time after time, has been a “bombshell” report followed by a retraction, or an “explosive” scoop that turns out to be a nothingburger.
Take, for instance, the CNN journalists who were forced to resign in June over a false story about Anthony Scaramucci’s dealings with the Russian Direct Investment Fund prior to Trump’s inauguration. Or ABC News’ erroneous report that President Trump directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election, when in reality he asked him to make contact after the election to work on a strategy to fight ISIS in Syria. Or another CNN story that asserted that FBI Director Jim Comey was going to dispute Trump’s assertion that he was assured by Comey that he was not the target of an investigation, which turned out to be the exact opposite of what happened. Or the Associated Press report that the Department of Homeland Security identified election systems in 21 states that were targeted by Russian hackers, a story that completely dissolved upon reflection.
As Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept, this is beginning to look like a disturbing trend:
“All media outlets, of course, will make mistakes … But what one should expect with journalistic “mistakes” is that they sometimes go in one direction, and other times go in the other direction. That’s exactly what has not happened here. Virtually every false story published goes only in one direction: to be as inflammatory and damaging as possible on the Trump/Russia story and about Russia particularly. At some point, once “mistakes” all start going in the same direction, toward advancing the same agenda, they cease looking like mistakes.”
The simple truth is that neither CNN nor most major media outlets are “facts first” when it comes to President Trump. They’re “agenda first” instead. And as the growing number of retractions and clarifications makes clear it’s getting in the way of true journalism.
Photo Credit: Mike McKenzie. See more of his work HERE