Greenwald on Washington Post correction and the ‘media-spread’ errors of the Trump era

by WorldTribune Staff, March 17, 2021

The Washington Post’s admitted error about President Donald Trump’s Georgia call is another prime example of “the deceitful playbook first invented to undermine Trump and promote Russiagate,” independent journalist Glenn Greenwald noted.

The Washington Post on Jan. 9 published a report, citing a single anonymous source, which claimed that on Dec. 23 President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Frances Watson, the chief investigator of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, and directed her that she must “find the fraud” and promised her she would be “a national hero” if she did so.

The Post “insisted that those were actual quotes of what Trump said,” Greenwald noted.

CNN claimed to have independently confirmed the Post’s reporting, affirming that Trump said these words “according to a source with knowledge of the call.”

Related: Washington Post quietly corrects report on Georgia call cited in impeachment trial, March 16, 2021

But late last week, the Wall Street Journal obtained a recording of Trump’s call with Watson, and the quotes attributed to Trump by the Post and CNN do not appear.

Two months after its original story “that predictably spread like wildfire throughout the entire media ecosystem,” The Post has appended a correction at the top of its original story. Politico’s Alex Thompson correctly pronounced these errors “real bad” because of how widely they spread and were endorsed by other major media outlets.

“All of this highlights the real crisis in journalism, the reason public faith and trust in media institutions is in free fall,” Greenwald noted. “With liberal media outlets deliberately embracing a profit model of speaking overwhelmingly to partisan Democrats who use them as their primary source of news, there is zero cost to publishing false claims about people and groups hated by that liberal audience.”

The audience of leftist outlets such as The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and MSNBC, Greenwald wrote, “does not care if these media outlets publish false stories as long as it is done for the Greater Good of harming their political enemies, and this ethos has contaminated newsrooms as well. Given human fallibility, reporting errors are normal and inevitable, but when they are all geared toward advancing one political agenda or faction and undermining the other, they cease to be errors and become a deliberate strategy or, at best, systemic recklessness.”

During Trump’s campaign and his four years in the White House, “there were so many false reports circulated by the dominant corporate wing of the U.S. media” that Greenwald said, in January 2019, he compiled what he called “The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump-Russia Story.”

Greenwald said the only difficult part of compiling the list “was choosing which among the many dozens of retractions, corrections and still-uncorrected factual falsehoods merited inclusion in the worst-ten list. So stiff was the competition that I was forced to omit many huge media Russiagate humiliations, and thus, to be fair to those who missed the cut, had to append a large ‘Dishonorable Mention’ category at the end.”

“That the entire Russiagate storyline itself was a fraud and a farce is conclusively demonstrated by one decisive fact that can never be memory-holed: namely, the impetus for the scandal and subsequent investigation was the conspiracy theory that the Trump campaign had secretly and criminally conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election, primarily hacking into the email inboxes of the DNC and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta,” Greenwald noted.

“And a grand total of zero Americans were accused (let alone convicted) of participating in that animating conspiracy.”

In May 2017, The New York Times wrote that Robert Mueller as special counsel had stated explicitly that his task was “to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials” and specifically “investigate ‘any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.’ ”

Greenwald noted that the “related secondary media-created conspiracy theory was that the Kremlin clandestinely controlled U.S. political institutions by virtue of sexual and financial blackmail held over President Trump, which they used to compel him to obediently obey their dictates. ‘I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, or financially’ was the dark innuendo which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her media allies most loved to spout. ‘Prestige news’ outlets created their own Q-Anon-level series of art designed to implant in Americans’ minds a slew of McCarthyite imagery showing the Kremlin (or an iconic Moscow cathedral they mistook for the Kremlin) having fully infiltrated Washington’s key institutions.”

Cover story of The New Yorker, Feb. 24, 2017

But, Greenwald noted, “that all came crashing down on their heads in April, 2019, when Mueller announced that he was closing his investigation without charging even a single American with the criminal conspiracy that launched the entire spectacle: criminally conspiring with the Russian government to interfere in the election. Again: while Mueller — like so many Washington special counsels before him — ended up snaring some operatives in alleged process crimes committed after the investigation commenced (lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice) or unrelated crimes (Manafort’s financial sleaze), the 18-month aggressive, sprawling investigation resulted in exactly zero criminal charges on the core claim that Trump officials had criminally conspired with Russia.”

Mueller’s final report explicitly stated that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election.”

Greenwald noted that, in many cases, Mueller’s report “went even further than this ‘did not establish’ formulation to state that there was no evidence of any kind found for many of the key media conspiracies (‘The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation’; the ‘evidence does not establish that one campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican platform was undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia’; ‘the investigation did not establish that [Carter] Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election’). The Report also barely even dignified let alone confirmed the long-standing, utterly deranged Democratic/media conspiracy theory that the Kremlin had taken over U.S. policy through blackmail.”

In the weeks after the Mueller report came out, Greenwald noted, “Democrats and media figures gamely attempted to deny that it obliterated the conspiracy theories to which they had relentlessly subjected the country for the prior four years. How could they do otherwise? They staked their entire reputations and the trust of their audience on having this be true.”

Greenwald concluded: “But whatever else is true, it is vital to understand what news outlets mean when they claim they have ‘independently verified’ the uncorroborated reports of other similar outlets. It means nothing of consequence. In many if not most cases — enough to make this formulation totally unreliable — it signifies nothing more than their willingness to serve as stenographers for the same anonymous political operatives who fed their competitors similar propaganda.”

Intelligence Brief __________ Replace The Media