Donald Trump famously decried the U.S. media as “the enemy of the people.” He got that right, although not for the reasons he claimed. It’s because of the media that come this November Americans will likely have to choose as president either a huckster like Trump or Joe Biden, who doesn’t seem all there and whose family’s business dealings are great cause for alarm.

Trump owes his success to the corporate media, which no longer values experience and measures journalism worthiness by clicks and views. When he first ran for office, Trump received inordinate media coverage because of his outrageous comments. When the corporate media became wise to the monster they helped spawn, reporters partnered with the Beltway establishment who were threatened by Trump’s policies and spread the discredited Russian collusion conspiracy, which held that Trump was beholden to Putin.

Multiple investigations not only couldn’t make those charges stick, but also revealed some political dirty tricks tied to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that would have made Nixon blush. Trump’s supporters know what I’m talking about, but readers of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications mistakenly viewed as “mainstream” likely don’t.

Polls show that the U.S. public doesn’t trust or respect the corporate media, particularly broadcast journalists, which benefits Trump. The media can rail about Trump and his supposed threats to democracy, but the public has become numb to the allegations. In fact, it’s no longer clear if the American public still has much faith in democracy.

A comment about the political situation in Michigan by Rev. Charles Williams II, the pastor of King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, has been weighing on me since I read it in the Wall Street Journal weeks ago: “The frustration is just anti the whole system. It almost feels like we’re coming to a breaking point in democracy where people just don’t even think it works anymore,” Williams said. “They don’t see no hope in Donald Trump, they don’t see no hope in Joe Biden.”

I’m not alone in my low regard for the media, particularly those responsible for covering the White House and presidential elections. Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s national security adviser for “strategic communications,” bragged to the New York Times how easy it was to deceive the media about the controversial Iran arms deal. Rhodes said he promoted a “narrative” that the administration started negotiations with Iran after the supposedly moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013.  The truth was the administration’s negotiations began earlier, with the country’s powerful Islamic faction, and the framework for an agreement was hammered out before Rouhani’s election.

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” Rhodes said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

One might expect that a political operative who boasted about deceiving reporters would be persona non grata in the media. Know what Rhodes is up to these days? He’s a contributor to NBC News. Jen Psaki, Biden’s former press secretary, hosts a show on MSNBC. I’ve previously written about the Biden ties of Comcast, which owns NBC., 2022

Another regular NBC contributor is Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant FBI director for counterintelligence and author of The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence. My friend Allan Lengel, one of the most ethical reporters I know and an authority on law enforcement, reported that Figuzzi fabricated a passage in his book about an incident that never happened according to eight FBI agents.

NBC’s spokesperson couldn’t be bothered to respond to Lengel’s reporting. That shouldn’t come a surprise. Lester Holt, anchor of NBC News, famously admitted, “fairness is overrated.”

A responsible, ethical, and thoughtful media would cover government critically and without fear or favor. This is especially true of reporters assigned to cover national security. Most Americans likely associate national security with protecting the U.S. against foreign powers and influences, but the Biden Administration alarmingly expanded the definition of national security to include Covid vaccinations and its climate change policies.

This allows the government to trigger a censorship apparatus that most Americans don’t know exists. An example was the pandemic coverage, where critics who questioned the safety and effectiveness of the Covid vaccines were discredited and ridiculed in the media, some of whom were previously regarded as the leading authorities in their fields. The Twitter files exposed how social and the legacy media were a critical part of the government’s censorship apparatus, but if your primary source of information is traditional media, you likely believe the proven collusion was much to do about nothing.

Catherine Herridge, who recently was disgracefully fired by CBS News supposedly for budget reasons, is a veteran national security reporter and by all accounts, a very good reporter who didn’t make news judgments through a partisan lens. Herridge reportedly was pursuing stories that would be very damning about President Biden and his family, leading to speculation that’s the reason she was fired.

It’s also led to speculation that a judge’s decision to fine Herridge $800 a day for refusing to divulge her sources for a series of stories published in 2017 while she was a correspondent at Fox News was politically motivated, particularly since the judge was an Obama appointee. The conspiracy theory holds that Herridge is being punished by the “Deep State” for daring to pursue stories critical of Biden.

Regretfully, the stories for which Herridge was fined were an example of the media enabling wrongful government behavior, rather than protecting American citizens against it.

In 2018, Trump’s Justice Department announced its China Initiative, which it billed as a concerted effort to root out and criminally prosecute those who were abetting China’s espionage activities in the U.S. and helping steal intellectual property, sensitive technology, and information that could aid China’s military or economy.

While the Obama Administration also pursued university professors suspected of abetting China, a formal program to root out suspected traitors being in cahoots with China took matters to another level.

Margaret Lewis/Seton Hall

“Once you call something and make it an initiative, you start seeing which officers are doing cases that fit that description. And whether you say it or not, that does put pressure, intended or unintended, to find cases that fit that initiative which is in the spotlight,” Margaret Lewis, a Seton Hall law professor specializing in criminal and human rights in China and Taiwan, told University World News (UWS).

According to UWS, as of September 2021 federal prosecutors brought 28 prosecutions under the China Initiative. They garnered a total of eight convictions or guilty pleas. Of the dozen Chinese professors or professors of Chinese descent, the government had convicted just four, none for economic espionage, theft of trade secrets or intellectual property.

More alarming were the criminal prosecutions that destroyed innocent people and were scathingly derided by judges. One of them was the prosecution of University of Tennessee Knoxville physics professor Anming Hu, a Canadian citizen with two doctorate degrees who was acquitted of six federal charges. An FBI agent admitted at trial that he never believed Hu was a spy but hoped Hu would lead him to others who might be. It was also revealed at trial that the FBI hoped to induce Hu to spy on China for the U.S. while visiting there, an activity for which Hu would have been executed if caught.

“There was no evidence presented that the defendant ever collaborated with a Chinese university in conducting NASA-funded research, or used facilities, equipment or funds from a Chinese university in the course of such research,” wrote Judge Thomas Varlan in his one-page opinion acquitting Hu.

For the record, Varlan was appointed by George W. Bush.

Wendy Chandler was a juror at Hu’s trial, which she said caused her to lose faith in prosecutors and the FBI.

“I walked in assuming the government had some reason to be there, assuming that they were coming at it with honesty and integrity,” she told The Intercept. “It was the most ridiculous case.”

As for Chandler’s view of the FBI: “If this is who is protecting America, we’ve got problems.”

Yanping Chen/APA

Yanping Chen is a China-born naturalized U.S. citizen who was cardiologist and medical researcher with China’s astronaut program. According to APA Justice, an organization opposed to the “overzealous methods and patterns of xenophobic profiling against innocent Asian Americans,” Chen came to the U.S. in 1987 to study and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Washington University.  She married a U.S. citizen, became a lawful permanent resident in 1993, and a U.S. citizen in 2001. 

In 1998, Dr. Chen founded the University of Management and Technology in Arlington, VA, where she lives to provide secondary and graduate education to working adults.  More than 12,000 students have received degrees from the university in the past 20 years. In 2010, Chen became the focus of a Federal Bureau of Investigation that lasted six years. According to APA Justice, Chen was advised in 2016 that no charges would be filed against her.

Nevertheless, FOX News published this “exclusive” story co-authored by Catherine Herridge a year later saying that Chen’s school “has been at the center of multiple federal probes about its leadership’s alleged ties to the Chinese military and whether thousands of records from U.S. service members were compromised.” FOX reported that Chen’s school “drew the attention of the FBI, the Justice Department, the Pentagon, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) since at least 2012 — and perhaps as early as 2009.”

None of the agencies mentioned in the FOX News story ever filed charges against Chen, let alone proved any wrongdoing. In America, one is innocent until proven guilty, except under the country’s media’s jurisprudence.

When someone is profiled as being the subject of multiple espionage probes the damage is forever, even if charges are never filed. Chen has no recourse against FOX News; the network’s story was true that she was once under federal investigation, and FOX was protected under the First Amendment to report it.

Instead, Chen in 2018 sued the Justice Department, as well as the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security for violating the Privacy Act by leaking information about their investigations to FOX News. After three years of discovery in which she failed to discover the identity of the leaker, Chen subpoenaed FOX News and Herridge, who had already joined CBS.

FOX and Herridge were unsuccessful in their attempts to fight the subpoena, and Judge Chris Cooper ruled last August  that Herridge must disclose her sources.

Judge Cooper/Court photo

“The Court recognizes both the vital importance of a free press and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists like Herridge,” he wrote. “But applying the binding case law of this Circuit, the Court concludes that Chen’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case.”

On Thursday, Cooper ruled that Herridge was in contempt of court and ordered her to pay $800 a day until she disclosed her source. Cooper stayed the fine for 30 days to give her time to appeal. Herridge’s lawyer is Patrick Philbin, a former top White House lawyer in the Trump Administration who decried media leaks during Trump’s first impeachment trial.

I’m very sympathetic to Herridge, who like most reporters these days was under great pressure to serve up more “scoops” than a Baskin-Robbins counter person so their bosses could slap “exclusive” on their stories in the hope of generating more clicks and views. It’s FOX News that should be on the hook for the $800 a day fine.

There are legions of conservatives who believe that Judge Cooper is the villain, but in my mind the villain of this story is CBS News President Ingrid Ciprián-Matthews who was ultimately responsible for the firing of Herridge and the alleged seizing of her computer and files. I’ve learned enough about Ciprián-Matthews these past few days to confidently conclude she’s no Edward R. Murrow.

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