One almost has to admire the media’s honesty dispensing with the pretense that a rigorous relationship with truth is a job requirement for modern day journalism.
C-SPAN announced this week that it was reinstating Steve Scully, who falsely claimed in October that his Twitter account was hacked after posting a public tweet directed at Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, asking how he should respond to attacks from Donald Trump.
“We view October’s events as a singular episode in an otherwise successful 30-year C-SPAN career,” the network said in a statement. “And while it was appropriate in October for Steve to be immediately relieved of his duties leading our 2020 election coverage, we reiterate our belief that now, having completed a three-month administrative leave, he can continue to contribute to CSPAN’s mission.”
CNN also is comfortable with bald-faced liars shaping its news coverage. The cable network has retained Miles Taylor, the former Department of Homeland Security aide who denied to anchor Anderson Cooper that he was the “anonymous” author who penned a 2018 op-ed in the New York Times saying he was part of a “resistance” movement of senior Trump Administration officials committed to curbing the president of his worst impulses. Never mind that Taylor and the Times misrepresented that he was a senior administration official, behold the comfort and ease with which Taylor looked into the camera and smugly lied. I wouldn’t trust Taylor to report on the weather.
Another CNN liar is Chris Cuomo, who staged his emergence from his Hamptons basement, declaring it was the first time he stepped out from quarantine after being diagnosed with the Covid virus. The New York Post previously reported that Cuomo was seen outside when he was supposedly under quarantine and was involved in a heated confrontation.
Nikole Hannah Jones, author of a much-maligned essay for the Times’ 1619 project, denied on CNN that she ever argued that 1619, the year the first slaves were brought to Colonial Virginia, was America’s “true founding” date. That assertion was the central claim of the Project when it was first published, but the Times quietly removed it after prominent historians derided the effort. Hannah Jones repeatedly made that assertion.
MSNBC employs Brian Williams, who lied about riding in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq, and Joy Reid, who claimed that homophobic posts on her blog were the result of a hacking – an assertion that few believe was credible. NBC also hired Ben Rhodes, a former Obama aide who admitted deceiving journalists. Rhodes also is on record as saying Washington reporters “literally know nothing,” but I’m guessing he wasn’t referring to reporters associated with the Peacock network.
Journalism dishonesty, of course, is nothing new. The Harvard Business Review in 1995 published this compelling article by a former Wall Street Journal reporter and corporate flack about how the news media and the government were “entwined in a vicious circle of mutual manipulation, mythmaking, and self-interest.”
What’s different today is the media’s supposedly heightened concern for “facts” and support for the pervasive “fact checking” movement. There are more than 300 fact-checking groups worldwide, including 58 in the U.S., according to the Duke University Reporters’ lab. As Tristan Justice of The Federalist persuasively argued, the media’s “fact checks” are often lies in themselves, a dishonest attempt to establish journalists as the only credible arbiters of truth.
It’s almost comical the outrage the media feigns when others are caught lying. Hilaria Baldwin, the wife of actor Alec Baldwin, is taking a pounding because she claimed for years she was from Spain and spoke with what turned out was a phony Spanish accent. Her real name is Hillary Hayward-Thomas, her parents are lily white, and she was raised in Boston.
America’s liar-in-chief is President Trump (at least he was president at this writing), who came to appreciate early on in his career there was no shame in lying and honed dishonesty to an art form that propelled him into the White House. But some of Trump’s biggest critics are liars themselves.
Minnesota Rep. Ilan Omar repeatedly told a story that when she first arrived in America, she encountered a “sweet, old … African American lady” who had been arrested for stealing a $2 loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-od granddaughter.” Omar said she was in the courtroom when the woman was fined $80 and was so upset, she yelled, “bullshit.” The Washington Post said the incident almost certainly didn’t happen because in Minneapolis shoplifters aren’t arrested unless there’s the likelihood of violence or further crime. Omar last March married a campaign consultant she employed, after repeatedly denying she was having an affair with him.
The Federalist reported this week that a childhood tale that vice president Kamala Harris has repeatedly recounted is most probably a lie, and not even an original one. The story matches almost to a tee one that Martin Luther King recounted to author Alex Haley in Playboy in 1995.
Being a plagiarist makes Harris a kindred spirit to President-elected Joe Biden, who was forced to withdraw from the 1987 presidential race amid accusations of plagiarism. Biden was caught lifting phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in his most recent campaign but plagiarism is no longer the sin it once was. Even the former editor of the New York Times has been accused of it and she was allowed to keep her teaching gig at Harvard.
Admittedly, my alarm about the pervasiveness of lying might just be a legacy of my upbringing in Ontario, Canada. It was recently revealed that Rod Phillips, the province’s finance minister, was vacationing in the Caribbean despite strict lockdown orders from Premier Doug Ford. While he was vacationing, Phillips tweeted a video of him sitting by the fireplace and thanking people for their sacrifices to protect the most vulnerable.
Phillips was promptly forced to resign because of public outrage after his dishonesty was exposed.