, Dan Gainor
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How far will the media go to get rid of President Trump?
Journalists hyped a phony Russian collusion narrative for nearly three years. ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross’ false Russia reporting was so bad it actually tanked the stock market.
This week, ABC News outdid itself. It used video of shooting at a gun range in Kentucky and said it showed an attack by Turkish forces on Kurds in Syria. This made Trump look bad and potentially escalated the conflict.
TRUMP SAYS ABC NEWS ‘OWES AN APOLOGY’ FOR MISTAKING KENTUCKY GUN RANGE VIDEO FOR TURKISH BOMBING OF SYRIA
It appears someone at ABC may have tried to get the U.S. into a war. But the press downplayed the incident as an accident. The incident resembled the plot from the movie “Wag the Dog,” except the movie had better writing than ABC.
Here’s what happened. Sunday’s “World News Tonight” featured a report called “Slaughter in Syria,” with weekend anchor Tom Llamas reporting. He talked while a video appeared on screen apparently showing a massive gun battle peppered with explosions.
Describing the scene, words on the screen said: ‘CRISIS IN SYRIA, ISIS prisoners escape as death toll rises in attack.”
Llamas described the U.S. troop pullout from the Syria-Turkey border as “effectively abandoning America’s allies in the fight against ISIS.” Then he explained what looked like a terrifying scene.
“This video right here appearing to be showing Turkey’s military bombing Kurdish civilians in a Syrian border town,” Llamas said. “The Kurds, who fought alongside the U.S. against ISIS – now horrific reports of atrocities committed by Turkish-backed fighters on those very allies.”
The video was so powerful that ABC used it again on “Good Morning America” the next day. This time, correspondent Ian Pannell told viewers: “This video obtained by ABC News appears to show the fury of the Turkish attack on the border town.”
Appears. But as the old saying goes, appearances can be deceiving – and they certainly were in this case. Extraordinarily deceiving, in fact.
Sure, it was amazing video. Lots of guns going off. Lots of things exploding. But it wasn’t a battle scene. The video was from a nighttime machine-gun shoot at the Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point, Ky. – not Syria.
Social media posters recognized the video wasn’t from Syria and other news outlets reported the shocking incident. ABC issued Twitter corrections, because that’s what outlets do when they are too embarrassed to tell viewers. The correction stated the network removed the video “after questions were raised about its accuracy.” Naturally, “ABC News regrets the error.”
More like ABC appears to regret the error.
This was briefly a big controversy. CNN’s Brian Stelter called it “a big black eye for ABC News.” Even The New York Times noted that “ABC News did not specify how the error had occurred.”
Journalism’s Poynter Institute added: “Into that vacuum of non-information rushed a familiar barrage of cynical accusations.” Then it proceeded to rationalize how showing the wrong video was simply an accident, because there was no proof it wasn’t.
Poynter insisted that “knowingly misrepresenting anything is not in the interest of a standards-based news organization.” Of course, the standards-based news organization also tanked the stock market in its desperate attempt to get Trump.
The president called the ABC blunder “a big scandal” and a “disgrace.” He’s right. And, perhaps, those who simply say that “accidents happen” might be right as well. ABC hasn’t elaborated and has already proved itself untrustworthy.
You notice how the news media don’t make big errors that help Trump? Instead, they assume the worst and ignore one of journalism’s cardinal rules – when a story seems too good to be true, it usually is.
ABC leaves viewers with only two disturbing choices. It is either trying to destabilize the Mideast and cause a war with NATO ally Turkey or it employs idiots who are easily duped and bosses who don’t even bother to verify the video they run.
Both choices say a lot about journalism in 2019.
Finger-pointing at Trump and Obama gets different reactions
We turn from “Wag the Dog” to wag the finger. Only no two digits are alike when it comes to the press.
This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stood across from Trump at a crowded conference table and pointed her finger. The media couldn’t wait to celebrate Pelosi’s victory over Trump and evil men. CNN ran a video from correspondent Dana Bash headlined: “Look at Pelosi standing up to Trump at table of all men.”
That was a common theme. Give credit to the Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Kugle, who captured all sorts of examples of finger-pointing fandom. Only he paired it with media outlets up in arms when then-Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz., treated then-President Barack Obama in the same manner back in 2012.
Journalists were furious at Brewer for allegedly disrespecting the president who they voted for and adored. Some even turned it into a racial incident. Jack Cafferty, then of CNN, summed up that view with the comment: “All that many saw in that famous photograph was a white woman wagging her finger at the first black president.”
Brewer took to Twitter to underscore the double-digit, double-standard. “The news media hails @SpeakerPelosi as a hero for pointing her finger at @POTUS @realDonaldTrump but when I stood up to @BarackObama I was vilified as rude and racist. Such Hypocrites!” Brewer wrote.
And she’s right. Both times the media were giving the finger to honest journalism.
Free press hates free speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went to Georgetown University this week and gave a pivotal address on free expression. He paired it with a Washington Post op-ed, both times calling for “the freedom for people to express themselves.” And the news media were furious about it.
Think about that.
Facebook wasn’t subtle. It headlined his speech on its own site as “Mark Zuckerberg Stands for Voice and Free Expression.” It’s long past time that Big Tech did just that.
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To be fair, Zuckerberg also called for governments to deliver “new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.”
Given the tendency of governments to restrict freedom (China!) that could become a global nightmare, just as it’s becoming one in Europe. Letting government just decide so-called “hate speech” would torch online free speech.
Journalists were critical of Zuckerberg’s “controversial” speech. “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason was typical: “Coming up, Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial comments about censoring politicians.”
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There are reasons why the press is upset about “controversial” speech. A Politico article by reporter Ryan Lizza this week noted how the big social media companies are viewed as dangerous to the left. “A consensus is emerging in Democratic politics that these platforms are the greatest threat to the party’s eventual nominee,” he wrote.
That’s because the left doesn’t dominate social media the way it does traditional news. That’s a big reason why journalists want Zuckerberg and others to restrict political speech. They want to beat Trump in 2020.
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