Drive-by media’s bias against Trump
The reporting of the 2016 presidential election can hardly be celebrated as the media’s finest hour. Refusing to contemplate the possibility of a Trump victory, most media outlets accepted his win with neither grace nor professionalism. The ABC’s Barrie Cassidy’s attitude was typical when he tweeted early in the counting ‘Trump cannot win. The nightmare is over.’ In America, some journalists were even in tears over the result. Worse, that golden rule of the world’s free and responsible media – comment is free, but facts are sacred – was, for the most part, thrown out the window.
Journalism is said to be the first rough draft of history. This applies equally to the factual basis of comment. But the tools available to the media are limited. Unlike the state, they can neither compel the giving of evidence on oath nor the production of documents. The standard of proof depends on the seriousness of what is alleged and in Australia, unlike the US, this is tempered by our draconian libel laws.
Where the media claims to be reporting the news, there is obviously an ethical requirement to reveal what criminal lawyers call exculpatory evidence, evidence favourable to the accused. But just as the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has been found to sit on such evidence, far too much news reporting on Trump fails this fairness standard.
The reporting of the Trump presidency has lamentably varied little from the low standards adopted in reporting the campaign. It is marked by a strong preference for damaging trivia over crucial fact, as mirrored in Michael Wolff’s diatribe, Fire and Fury.
Consistent with this, there has been a distinct reluctance to acknowledge Trump’s considerable first year achievements —the economic revival, major tax and little-reported regulatory reform, serious attention to defence and illegal immigration, the routing of Isis and the long-promised recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A typical example of media bias is the decision to ignore or to play down the recently uncovered fact that the well-known civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, famously involved in the Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein affairs, had offered generous ‘compensation’ for making sexual misconduct allegations against Trump during the election. Contrast this with the headlines for the report soon afterwards that ‘hush money’ had allegedly been paid by Trump’s lawyer to a porn star.
More recently, the media have concentrated on the alleged use by the President of a pejorative term referring to countries in such a lamentable state that it is said that to return illegal migrants to them would constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. At the same time, most outlets ignored the real issue, the massive influx of illegal immigrants which is changing the country without the approval of the people, while unconstitutionally locking in millions of fraudulent new votes for the Democratic party.
I refrained in my last column from joining the rush to endorse the New York Times’ claim that a bar room boast to Alexander Downer had triggered the investigation into the alleged collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. This was too obviously a distraction from the unravelling of the Mueller investigation. Closely related to this is that while the President was almost universally ridiculed when he claimed his campaign was wiretapped by the Obama administration, this is now universally reported as something which did in fact occur. The media do this without excuse, explanation or apology.
In the meantime, what I anticipated in my last column has now come to pass. The long outstanding Congressional subpoenas have been reluctantly obeyed, with the applications for the warrants for the wiretap handed over. There were at least two applications, the first being rejected by the court. Several independent and reliable sources now indicate these documents reveal an undue reliance on the dossier prepared by the former MI6 operative Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS. Made up essentially of multiple hearsays from anonymous sources, this was funded through the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, with the FBI even considering funding just before the election. Steele has admitted in a defamation case that the dossier is no more than a compilation of unverified raw intelligence which he had also passed on to US and UK intelligence authorities. This may explain how the FBI persuaded the court to grant the warrant through the appearance of some apparently independent British sources.
The point is that the bar for obtaining a warrant is high. The FBI and the Department of Justice would have had to persuade the court to find, as required by law, ‘probable cause’ of three elements: first, that the Trump campaign knowingly engaged in clandestine or secret intelligence activities; second, that this was on behalf of Russia; and third, that this involved the commission of a crime. This demonstration would have required the court to have been persuaded of the likely truth of the facts alleged on all three elements. Given that the Mueller investigation, even though stacked with fervent Democrats hostile to Trump, has been unable to find not one skerrick of evidence of Russian collusion, the most likely result will be a finding of serious contempt of the judicial process for purely political purposes.
It has also emerged that some senior FBI investigators involved in the collusion investigation were also involved in the highly improper exoneration of Mrs Clinton without real investigation. Plus the revelation that new inquiries are underway about the Clinton Foundation, including investigations of Russian source funding around the time large Russian investments in US uranium were approved by the Obama administration.
This could well end in a scandal about Washington corruption of such proportions that Watergate would seem a kindergarten. What Rush Limbaugh accurately identifies as the ‘drive-by media’ will then be forced to report that result, without of course making any admission or apology for their previous and unprecedented lapse in media standards.