It’s a slimy practice whose biggest casualty is the truth. Yet, it has now become the way “news” stories are frequently told by the big guns in America’s media industry, and those of us here in the blogosphere have no recourse beyond just calling them out.
The latest practitioner is NPR, which yesterday at 10:56 a.m. published an article titled “Cohen’s Account Of Russia Talks Raises Questions About Trump Jr. 2017 Testimony.” In it, author Philip Ewing wrote:
[Donald] Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 that although there had been negotiations surrounding a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow, they concluded without result ‘at the end’ of 2014.
‘But not in 2015 or 2016?’ Trump Jr. was asked.
‘Certainly not ’16,’ he said. ‘There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue.’
Trump’s account contrasts with the new version of events given by Cohen on Thursday in a guilty plea in federal court. In that new version, Cohen says the discussions with at least one Russian government official and others in Moscow continued through June 2016, well into Trump’s presidential campaign.
The problem here, as noted by The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, is that Ewing conflated a series of attempts to develop property in Russia that went back several years with another wholly discrete attempt. That reality eventually had the effect of skunking the story. Once the “error” had been exposed, NPR got busy rewriting the piece, an update of which went out at 4 p.m. with an “editor’s note” reading:
An earlier version of this report mischaracterized an answer Donald Trump Jr. gave to Senate investigators in 2017 about the prospective projects his family was negotiating with people in Moscow.
The story reported that Trump Jr.’s response — that negotiations on one project concluded by the end of 2014 — contrasted with the version of events as laid out in the guilty plea by Michael Cohen on Thursday. In fact, Trump Jr. and investigators were alluding to a different set of negotiations — not to a deal that Cohen was reportedly pursuing. Trump Jr. did acknowledge in his testimony that Cohen and another man were exploring a possible deal in Moscow in 2015 or 2016.
Trump Jr. did not address what Cohen has now admitted — that talks about such a deal continued at least into June 2016, longer than previously known and well into the presidential campaign.
By this point, the original claim, to paraphrase Mark Twain, had traveled halfway around the world, appearing on numerous web pages, not to mention cable news. Here’s CNN analyst Susan Hennessey telling the same whopper on-air:
And CNN analyst @Susan_Hennessey just made the same lie on-air
— Raven (@KazeSkyz) November 30, 2018
Is it possible that NPR’s error was not made deliberately in an effort to promote its leftist agenda? It hardly matters since once the lie becomes accepted as “fact” and spreads, there is no calling it back.
Nor do the media see the publication of new, article-length “corrections” to be problematic. The New York Times said back in April after publishing its own blatant falsehood:
We made an error of fact in the editorial, and we’ve corrected it. But that error doesn’t undercut or weaken the argument of the piece.