The collapse of crypto exchange FTX has produced some great journalism from unlikely places. One of them is Gizmodo, whose writer Matt Novak wrote a deserved takedown of the New York Times’ widely panned interview with Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX’s disgraced CEO. Novak appears to understand the intricacies of crypto and he’s passionate about SBF’s alleged wrongdoings. Too bad he doesn’t write about healthcare.
Another journalist deserving of a shoutout is Sarah Butcher of the recruitment website eFinancial Careers. Butcher was among the first, if not the first, to publish a profile of Caroline Ellison, CEO of SBF’s trading firm Alameda Research, which figures heavily in the FTX scandal. The online publication asiaMarkets.com was among the first to publish a profile of Constance Wang, FTX’s chief operating officer.
CoinDesk’s Ian Allison gets credit for blowing open the FTX scandal.
Among the most damning SBF stories so far was by Ashley Rindsberg in Tablet, an online magazine focused on Jewish news and culture. It’s a measure of how clueless I am about ethnicity that I didn’t figure SBF as Jewish, but a quick search revealed that both his parents are Jewish, which I wish wasn’t the case. If my father, who always feared outbreaks of antisemitism, was still alive I know what he’d be saying: “They are going to blame the Jews for the collapse of cryptocurrency.”
Rindsberg’s piece didn’t focus on SBF’s Jewish heritage but rather on how the media played an instrumental role in SBF’s unquestioned prominence. Although ignoramuses like the rapper formerly known as Kanye West believe Jews also control the media, the publications responsible for some of SBF’s most fawning coverage don’t have Jewish ownership.
For those who appreciate the New York Times is no longer the storied publication it once was, Rindsberg’s story is akin to eating a hot fudge sundae with two cherries and oodles of sprinkles on top. Rindsberg, author of the recently released book, The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’s Misreporting, Distortions, and Fabrications Radically Alter History, provided numerous examples of the puff pieces the Times published on SBF or quoted supposedly knowledgeable people raving about him.
Given that SBF contributed tens of millions to President Biden and other Democrats, it’s understandable why the Times was among his biggest cheerleaders. One can only image the Times’ coverage had SBF been a major supporter of Donald Trump.
Here’s a taste from a SBF puff piece the Times published on May 14, 2020:
For years, the crypto industry was dominated by political ideologues, shameless grifters and rich guys with yachts. Mr. Bankman-Fried is hoping to put a new face on the still-chaotic world of digital assets. He lives modestly for a billionaire and has pledged to give away virtually his entire fortune, which currently stands at $21.2 billion, according to Forbes. A growing force in political fund-raising, he has a super PAC that recently gave more than $10 million to a Democratic congressional candidate who supports some of his philanthropic priorities.
Perhaps everyone knew this but me, but Rindsberg also reported that Binance, a rival crypto firm that helped precipitate SBF’s collapse, earlier this year invested $200 million in Integrated Whale Media, the Hong Kong-based company that owns Forbes. He also noted that SBF invested in Vox, a publication that promoted the Biden Administration’s and other government agencies’ Covid propaganda efforts, which recently became known.
Rindsberg makes no mention of SBF’s reported investment in the Intercept, which merits scrutiny given that nonprofit publication’s pro-Biden bias.
Among the Intercept’s founders was Glenn Greenwald, a high-profile journalist who in 2014 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and other awards for his contributions to stories about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of U.S. citizens. Greenwald quit the Intercept just prior to the 2020 presidential election after editors spiked his story questioning the media’s and the U.S. intelligence community’s dismissal of the New York Post’s Hunter laptop story. The laptop contained a trove of documents, including emails and texts, revealing how Hunter Biden used his family’s name and political connections.
The New York Times and the Washington Post have since admitted the authenticity of the laptop’s contents. A September poll revealed that nearly half of U.S. voters believed that Biden might not have won the 2020 election if the contents of his son’s laptop had been fully reported by the mainstream media.
The Intercept has been hurting for donations since Greenwald’s departure.
Among the most vociferous attackers of the Post’s story was Intercept reporter Jim Risen, who denounced it as both a conspiracy theory and foreign disinformation.
Risen, a former New York Times reporter, is still carrying water for Biden. I received this fundraising email from him yesterday:
This is Jim Risen, senior national security correspondent at The Intercept. In 2014, the Obama administration threatened to put me in prison for revealing CIA secrets and refusing to reveal my sources.
So when the Biden Justice Department announced new guidelines that they claimed would protect press freedom, I was interested — and more than a little bit skeptical.
Sadly, my skepticism was justified. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s new press freedom guidelines are shot through with loopholes that could allow prosecutors to go after sources and threaten reporters with jail. If Donald Trump ever returns to power, these new “protections” won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.
Risen’s suggestion that Donald Trump is more dangerous to press freedoms than Biden is disingenuous. The Trump Administration, despite Donald Trump’s denunciations of the media, was lax aggressively prosecuting leaks to journalists. As an example, James Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide who lied to the FBI about leaking information to four journalists, including one he was sleeping with, got off with a mere two-month prison sentence and a $7,500 fine.
The New York Times on December 30, 2016, published this story noting that President Obama was considerably more aggressive prosecuting journalists than previous administrations. Some sample paragraphs:
Over the past eight years, the (Obama) administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.
Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.
The author of the story? Jim Risen.
Notably, the Intercept recently published this story about how the Department of Homeland Security’s successful efforts censoring social media voices and comments critical of the Biden Administration’s narratives and policies. The Intercept makes no mention of its possible contribution to Biden’s election.
The Intercept might want to forget its Biden legacy. But the U.S. public shouldn’t.