A crisis forges great leaders. It also distinguishes great journalists from the wannabes. That’s certainly the case with the novel coronavirus pandemic: The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post are duking it out 24/7 for journalism supremacy, while CBS, ABC, CNN, and NBC are fighting mightily in their race to the bottom. Unfortunately, most Americans are getting their pandemic news from television, which is why the media remains the least trusted institution in America.

Ben Kesling

Let’s start with this story the Journal posted last night by Ben Kesling about Veteran Affairs hospitals experiencing a serious shortage of protective equipment. Kesling produced the goods: He obtained internal memos, he cites horrific examples, and he interviewed doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, all of whom understandably spoke under the condition of not being identified. Kesling’s reporting makes a mockery of this statement last week by VA spokeswoman Christina Noel: “All VA facilities are equipped with essential items and supplies, and we are continually monitoring the status of those items to ensure a robust supply chain.”

Yeah, right Christina.

CBS News on Sunday tried “reporting” about American hospitals facing a shortage of protective gear, but without doing much work. Instead, it posted a social media video on Twitter of a nurse at Central DuPage Hospital in suburban Chicago saying she quit her job because nurses there were prohibited from wearing protective masks. “America is not prepared. And nurses are not being protected,” the bawling nurse said in the footage. Senator Bernie Sanders was so moved by the video he shared it with his more than nine million followers.

It didn’t occur to anyone at CBS News to check the nurse’s Facebook and Instagram feeds, but some thoughtful social media sleuths did and quickly uncovered information and images that undermined the credibility of the nurse’s claims. CBS on Monday issued two clarifications on the story but didn’t remove the discredited video, likely because it was generating oodles of clicks. It’s unfortunate that Central DuPage Hospital had to deal with the fallout of CBS News’s incompetence in the midst of saving lives from the pandemic.

It wasn’t CBS News’s only recent embarrassment. Two weeks ago it showed footage of what it said was a New York City hospital that in fact was of a hospital in Italy. And this weekend in ran the same footage, this time identifying it as a hospital in Philadelphia.

CBS News was once known as the “Tiffany Network” because of its superior journalism standards. It should now be called the “99 Cents Store” network because of its bargain-basement quality journalism.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. My apologies to the 99 Cents Stores.

ABC News’s Blockbuster “Exclusive”

I’m not naïve. Government leaders and spokespeople routinely tell lies.  The VA’s Christina Noel proved that. And telling whoppers can lead to a very lucrative career.

Jay Carney

Politifact called the assurance that everyone could keep their health insurance under Obamacare the 2013 “Lie of the Year.” Obama spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly made that claim. Know what Carney’s doing now? He’s getting paid millions as Amazon’s chief flack, doing such lofty things as implementing a campaign to publicly discredit a warehouse worker with a high school diploma as being “not smart or articulate.”

But when high ranking government officials categorically deny the existence of a damning document, particularly one relating to sensitive intelligence matters where “no comment” is standard operating procedure, it’s not so easy to dismiss the denial.  If that document exists and the media gets a hold of it, then the officials are exposed as bald-faced liars, rather than white liars like Noel and Carney.

Col (Dr.) R. Shane Day, the director of the National Center for Medical Intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, issued a statement last night denying an ABC News “exclusive” that U.S. intelligence issued a report in November 2019 warning of a coronavirus “cataclysmic” pandemic. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he has no knowledge of such a report, which ABC News said was widely distributed among key decision makers.

My guess is that there is some truth to the ABC News story, but the reporters sufficiently mucked up the details that Day had enough wiggle room to deny the existence of a detailed report like the one described by the network. If such a report does indeed exist, I expect that someone will call the Maggie Haberman deep state hotline and leak it to the New York Times. Haberman is the reporter of choice for the Judas’s in the Trump Administration.

More insights about the ABC News Musketeers can be found here.

CNN and the Brothers Cuomo

What a difference the coronavirus pandemic has made for the brothers Cuomo. Not all that long ago New York governor Andrew Cuomo wasn’t considered a viable presidential candidate because of allegations of extensive corruption tied to his administration. CNN anchor Chris was taking umbrage being likened to a certain Godfather character.

New York’s governor is winning plaudits for both his daily briefings and his nipples, while young Chris is the focus of attention because he continues to do his show while suffering from the coronavirus. The media applauds Chris interviewing his older brother; the Associated Press went so far as to credit the exchanges for “enlivening coronavirus TV.” Brian Stelter, CNN’s media reporter, declared Chris Cuomo “the most visible face of the coronavirus” in the U.S. (Sorry, Dr. Fauci.)

Governor Cuomo lovers who have been seduced by his daily performance would be wise to check out this Wall Street Journal story about why California might not fare nearly as bad as New York in the pandemic. Also worth reading is this ProPublica article revealing that New York City, whose hospitals also come under state jurisdiction, understood and prepared for a pandemic when Michael Bloomberg was mayor, but those plans fell by the wayside because of budget concerns. Not the sort of issue Chris Cuomo will aggressively grill brother “bananas hands.”

CJR, the journalism trade publication affiliated with Columbia University, has questioned the appropriateness and objectivity of Chris Cuomo interviewing his governor brother, particularly about making a late run for the 2020 presidential election. Also questioning CNN’s objectivity is Megan Kelly, who attacked Don Lemon for his criticisms of Donald Trump. Yes, the same Megan Kelly who made her name working at Fox News.  

I wish Chris Cuomo well, but he’s doing a major disservice continuing to work with the coronavirus. There are still many people who question the wisdom and need for self-isolation. Cuomo is fortunate his symptoms so far haven’t been sufficiently severe to disable him from working but seeing him on air could prompt self-isolation skeptics to mistakenly think that being inflicted with the coronavirus isn’t all that bad. More than 16,000 Americans have died from the virus.

Peacocks Can’t Do Math

No sense rehashing the issues and conflicts with NBC News, particularly given the Comcast network’s recent but unattended tribute to Ted Baxter, the news anchor of Mary Tyler Moore fame.

In case you haven’t seen it, anchor Brian Williams had New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay as a guest and the two of them mistakenly discussed how Michael Bloomberg spent 327 trillion dollars on his campaign. Breitbart’s John Nolte did a great job explaining Williams/Gay math.

NBC, by its own admission, says its anchors shouldn’t be taken “literally.” Keep that in mind the next time one of its correspondents attack President Trump for his falsehoods.

Two Must Read Coronavirus Stories

Space and time don’t allow a listing of all the extraordinary stories the Journal and the Post have produced since the pandemic began but there are two that all Americans by law should be required to read to ensure strict self-isolation adherence until the pandemic is under control.

Eli Saslow

One is this story by Post reporter Eli Saslow that drives home the heroism and life-threatening risks anesthesiologists face when intubating coronavirus patients. It’s a moving profile of Chicago doctor Cory Deburghgraeve and through his eyes and heart we learn that intubation is traumatic both for the anesthesiologist and the coronavirus patient. Only about 30 percent of coronavirus patients survive intubation. Reading the profile it’s abundantly clear why Saslow at a young age has garnered more awards, including a Pulitzer, than most reporters accumulate in a lifetime.

The other story is by Journal reporters Mark Maremont and Jennifer Levitz, respectively a Pulitzer winner and a twice Pulitzer finalist, about experiencing intubation. “It’s like being buried alive,” said one survivor. More dishearteningly, recovering from the ordeal is an arduous process and some never fully recover.

If after reading these two stories you still want to risk going out or not observing the six feet rule, you might want to buy a gun and a single bullet and enjoy a few rounds of Russian roulette. For some added excitement, get yourself a Remington.