New standard of journalistic excellence: Effectiveness at degrading Trump

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Grace Vuoto

Members of the American press corps are less interested in doing their job than they are in humiliating President Donald Trump. Their opposition to his policies is tainting their performance — and embarrassing us on the world stage.

Jon Lemire at the Helsinki press conference by President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In Helsinki, at a historic July 16 summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, AP reporter Jon Lemire asked Putin whether or not he had any compromising information on Trump and his family.

Was Lemire really advancing our knowledge of public policy by asking this question? If Putin does have compromising information, would he suddenly say: “Yes, you got me. I have it.” Such “kompromat,“ as the Russians call it, is useful only if it remains a secret. Hence, in that case, Putin could leverage the “kompromat” over Trump and obtain advantages for Russia’s national interest. Were Putin to admit to possessing such information in public, the leverage would instantly dissipate. It was a preposterous question.

If a journalist like Lemire really believes the American president is doing Putin’s bidding, his job is to prove it. Without such proof, he has no right to ask the question. He should be fired. For, if we apply this standard, any rumor or any individual flight of fancy is fair game to be raised at a high profile, international press conference. We would have sheer chaos, rather than valid questions that lead to deepening our knowledge and holding politicians accountable.

Lemire knows this very well. Yet, he simply wanted to shine a spotlight on the information that has been circulating from the unverified Steele dossier — namely, that Trump watched prostitutes having a pee party in a hotel room in Moscow, years before he became a presidential candidate. Lemire’s goal is not to obtain the truth but to demean Trump in the eyes of the world.

The lasting damage, however, was not to Trump but to the United States’ international image. Other nations can see that America is mired in bitter infighting; our nation is hopelessly divided. America appears weak. Notice that Russian journalists did not dare embarrass their leader. Why do our journalists do so with impunity? And quite the contrary, MSNBC’s Brian Williams, for example, lionized Lemire that evening on his nightly broadcast, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.

“You sure received a lot of compliments from your colleagues in the news business for your performance in the moment,” said Williams. He was so impressed with Lemire that following his interview, he gushed: “Well done today at the summit in Helsinki.”

Lemire was also the journalist who asked Trump whether or not he sides with Putin or America’s intelligence community on the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump received bipartisan blowback for his clumsy statement, appearing to side with Putin’s denial of such interference. The president tried to clarify his remark when he returned to the United States, but the explanation rang hollow. It is obvious Trump does not care much for the topic.

Contrary to the anti-Trump media frenzy that ensued, the real story of the Helsinki summit is that two nuclear powers have leaders who sat down and engaged in dialogue over vexing issues — a step in the right direction, for sure. And that as they did so, the American press corps sided with the Russians, not the American president, by asking questions meant to embarrass our Commander in Chief.

It is no wonder that surveys of the media’s performance consistently chronicle the public’s disappointment and mistrust. A June 28 Axios report revealed that 92 percent of Republicans state that the media deliberately reports misleading news; and 72 percent of those surveyed, including Democrats and independents, concur.

These are alarming statistics. The likes of Lemire should stop grandstanding and do the hard work of journalism: get the facts first and then pose a probing question. Otherwise, the next time I see him I will be obliged to ask if it’s true that he slept with Brian Williams in order to be on his broadcast so often and receive such accolades. After all, we have the fawning footage, right? He may not like it so much when sloppy standards of inquiry are applied to him.

Grace Vuoto is a WorldTribune columnist.

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