“No, that could never happen, major newspapers have better standards than that.” This is the reflexive response I’ve been getting from some observers in the two hours since I called bullshit on the New York Times story about Rod Rosenstein wanting to wear a wire and wanting to invoke the 25th Amendment. Unfortunately, the reality is that major media outlets do often walk into traps set by inside sources with an axe to grind. It’s pretty clearly what just happened here – and it’s yet another reminder that if Donald Trump knows how to do one thing well, it’s to take advantage of the mainstream media’s willingness to play the role of braindead stenographer.
The New York Times story in question is already being exposed a work of fiction. For instance the Washington Post just reported, from another source who was in the meeting in question, that Rosenstein’s remark about wearing a wire “was said in a moment of sarcasm, and that the 25th amendment was not discussed.” If you make an obviously sarcastic remark in order to demonstrate that a certain scenario isn’t realistic, and someone writes a story claiming that you offered up that scenario as a realistic option, that’s a fake story – period.
Sadly, none of this should come as a surprise. We spent the entire 2016 election cycle seeing that major news outlets often give us dubious and even false stories based on inside sources they know are biased and/or unreliable. During the primary season, the New York Times published such a blatant work of fiction about Hillary Clinton’s emails, it ended up having to post two separate retractions just to walk back all the falsehoods. We’ve seen it yet again this year, as one major news outlet after another (including the Times, and for that matter, the Post) has printed Rudy Giuliani’s obvious lies as if they were fact.
Most major newspapers think “journalism” equals printing anything that’s been given to them by multiple inside sources, even if those sources aligned with each other, and even if those sources are biased to the point that their claims about their adversaries shouldn’t be believed. Most cable news hosts think “journalism” equals quoting major newspapers as if they were the word of God, and then offering doomsday speculation about it to keep you tuned in. But anyone with their thinking cap on today knows that this story is sourced to Team Trump, and that it’s a dishonest attempt at setting the groundwork for ousting Rosenstein, and that it’s a direct response to this morning’s failure of Trump’s declassification gambit, which was also an attempt at ousting Rosenstein.
This Rosenstein story is quickly being exposed as a wildly out of context work of fiction from sources with an axe to grind – just like all the false reporting on Hillary’s emails. Today is a good day to take a look around at the various political reporters and pundits, and to see who has the guts to state the obvious. In this industry, you take a lot of heat for pointing out that someone as big as the New York Times has run an obviously bullshit story. Lazy thinkers out there don’t want to hear it from you, because it’s easier for them to just pretend every word they hear from the Times is fact. And competing pundits (on both sides) then use it as an opportunity to paint you as some kind of conspiracy theorist for going against the Times. It’s so much easier on days like this to just go with the flow. So let’s see who in this industry has the guts and integrity today to speak the truth about this story.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report