Media Owe No Apology to Trump or Anyone Else for Covering Mueller Investigation
Apparently, I am supposed to be embarrassed now.
That, at least, is my interpretation of a few strange tweets and emails that have come my way in the week since Attorney General William Barr issued his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Donald Trump. One individual wrote: “I noticed that you’ve released your bite on Trump’s ankle now that Mueller couldn’t recommend and (sic) indictment.” Another, apparently unable to rise to that level of verbal sophistication, simply sent a bunch of LOLs.
The funny thing is, I’ve actually written very little about the probe into Trump’s ties with Russia — and certainly nothing longing for or anticipating its outcome. But the attempt of a few facts-challenged Trump fans — a tautology, I know — to taunt me over Mueller’s reported inability to prove Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election is just part of a larger narrative that has emerged in the past few days. It holds that journalism laid an egg here, producing an epic fail that will haunt it for years.
The charge was leveled, not surprisingly, by Trump, who tweeted that “The Fake News Media has lost tremendous credibility …”
He was echoed by his spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said, “… the liberal media owe the president and they owe the American people an apology.”
He was also echoed by his puppy, Sean Hannity, who promised to “hold the corrupt media accountable for years of misleading the American people!”
If all of that was predictable, many of us were surprised to hear Matt Taibbi, a liberal journalist who has been no friend to the Trump regime, join the chorus, calling this “a death blow for the reputation of the American news media.”
Beg pardon, but: Huh? What in the sainted name of Walter Cronkite is he talking about?
I know media failure. I’ve seen media failure. Uncritically swallowing false WMD claims, that was failure. Giving candidate Trump free air time, that was failure. This was not.
Yes, the coverage produced a few ill-considered chyrons and headlines. Most coverage does. And yes, too, the constant cable news drumbeat of turning points that didn’t turn and breaking points that didn’t break grew numbing.
But let’s get real. Would anyone really argue that in a situation where: a) American intelligence reports a hostile foreign power interfered in a U.S. election to benefit one candidate; b) that candidate publicly implores the hostile power for help; c) his campaign is found to have met with agents of that power; d) the candidate dictates a lie to explain away the meeting; e) the FBI is concerned enough to open a counterintelligence probe, that news media should not investigate as aggressively as possible?
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 didn’t produce that much smoke. Failure to investigate would have been journalistic malpractice.
Yet reporters are expected to hang their heads now because an attorney general whose skepticism about the Mueller probe is a matter of public record issues a four-page summary of a 300-plus-page report claiming Mueller found no evidence of collusion? No. If — and it’s a big if — that proves true, so be it.
But if it doesn’t — or if any of the dozen-plus other investigations still swirling about Trump produces superfluous evidence of his malfeasance — thank God for a free and mostly fearless news media to report on it. That is our sacred charge and, yes, there have been times we failed to live up to it.
This, however, is not one of them.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at [email protected].
© 2019 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
In The News
Few jobs in politics might be tougher than to be a moderate member of Congress. Moderates typically hail from competitive districts, which means they enter office with targets on their backs from an opposition eager to wrest away their seats. And unlike their colleagues in safely... Read More
Persons of faith from around the world are suffering, yet again. The world had not yet healed from the attacks in New Zealand, when the devastating Easter Sunday suicide bombings took place in Sri Lanka. Then, just a week later, there was another hate-fueled attack –... Read More
There’s something particularly ironic about a presidential candidate standing in the rural state of Mississippi and calling for abolishment of the Electoral College. Yet, that’s exactly what Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., did on the campaign trail. She’s not alone. Other major Democratic candidates have piled on... Read More
The first time I saw it, I could barely breathe. It was so beautiful against the cerulean sky. Our Lady of Paris. It looked like a mass of lace, draped over scaffolding, with giant crystal kaleidoscope windows. I fell in love with a building that was... Read More
Say this for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: She's consistently elitist. She's also consistently obtuse, which often is the demeanor of the entitled. DeVos simply can't be bothered to consult studies that don't comport with what she already believes or to consider input from members of... Read More
Lawyers are at rock bottom. Only 18% of the population perceives lawyers to contribute “a lot” to society. This was the conclusion of a 2013 Pew Research Center study regarding the perceived contribution to society of various professions and try though I might, I couldn’t find... Read More