On Wednesday morning, I got an email from a liberal friend saying that CNN was running a story about Russia and Mr. Trump. My friend wrote something like: “If true…. it’s over….”
Of course, we know now that the whole thing was a farce, the kind of stuff that happens to people when they let their passion or ideology take over their common sense. Who will ever forget Dan Rather and the story about a young George W. Bush back in October 2004?
As my late father always said: “Count to 10 before you invest in something that looks too good to be true.”
My guess is that BuzzFeed probably thought that their decision to publish a memo about Mr. Trump and Russia would earn them the Pulitzer or the kind of acclaim that came with the Pentagon Papers years ago. (For the young readers, the Pentagon Papers were leaked in 1971 about the Vietnam War.)
Buzzfeed’s decision backfired because it was so blatantly irresponsible, as Howard Kurtz wrote:
For BuzzFeed to publish totally unsubstantiated allegations against Donald Trump — while saying “there is serious reason to doubt the allegations” — turns the practice of journalism on its head.
It is a perversion of what we do for a living to spew out material that may be nothing more than bogus rumors and disinformation, and to claim, as BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith does, that this is “how we see the role of reporters in 2017.”
The president-elect and his team decided yesterday to tackle this head on, to take the fight to both BuzzFeed and CNN, to make the media the issue rather than defensively deflecting the questions. And they had a big fat target.
BuzzFeed, a pop culture site with an overlay of news, is not exactly friendly to Trump. In fact, Smith told his staff in a 2015 memo that it’s “entirely fair to call him a mendacious racist, as the politics team and others have reported clearly and aggressively: he’s out there saying things that are false, and running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign.” This, said Smith, was fact, not opinion.
Trump called BuzzFeed “a failing piece of garbage” that is going to “suffer the “consequences” of its actions. Sean Spicer called it “frankly outrageous” and a “highly irresponsible” decision by a “left-wing” blog. Mike Pence blamed it on “media bias.” The decision to have the incoming vice president and press secretary denounce the website before Trump spoke — with Reince Priebus doing the same on the morning shows — underscores how they viewed this as a prime opportunity to discredit the press.
Smith told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd last night, “When you have an object that’s in play… you do have to ask the question, why should I suppress that?”
But Todd shot back: “You’ve just published fake news.”
In the end, BuzzFeed set out to destroy Mr. Trump but it probably put a nail in its own coffin. Watch for some of BuzzFeed’s advertisers to look for another blog to advertise on!
It was “Christmas 11 months early” for President elect Trump. His “fake news” message has a face, a website and even a rather embarrassed CNN.