Friday night, the Special Counsel’s office released an extremely rare statement that took a buzz saw to BuzzFeed News’s Thursday night bombshell that alleged President Trump directed former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about possible construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. In the statement, a Mueller spokesman called it “not accurate.”
Despite the fact that the BuzzFeed News story was not confirmed by — well — any news outlet from when it was first published to the statement from Mueller’s team, the broadcast networks devoted 27 minutes and 33 second on their Friday morning and evening newscasts (minus opening teases) to a story that, for lack of a better term, has been sunk.
All three networks pointed to the questionable veracity of the BuzzFeed piece by Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold to some degree, but each still gave it coverage with two dithering away over 10 minutes each.
ABC led the way with 10 minutes and 32 seconds between Good Morning America and World News Tonight. Close behind was NBC, which had 10 minutes and five seconds during NBC Nightly News and Today on the Cohen claims. NBC had the longest uninterrupted span with a portion of Today’s coverage going uninterrupted for six minutes and 33 seconds.
In third place and showing the most restraint was CBS. On "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," they combined for only six minutes and 56 seconds of BuzzFeed coverage.
Just before 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Office of the Special Counsel spokesman Peter Carr released this statement, sending the media (and Twitter) on all sides into a frenzy: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
Earlier in the evening, our friend Amber Athey at the Daily Caller found that CNN and MSNBC combined to use the word “impeach” (and its variations) regarding the implication of the BuzzFeed News story being, well, accurate, “nearly 200 times on Friday” during their respective “original Friday programming....up until each network learned that BuzzFeed’s report was in dispute — shortly before 8 pm.”
When broken down, Athey found that “CNN mentioned impeachment 82 times while MSNBC mentioned it a whopping 97 times.”
CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter and his fellow media cheerleader were beside themselves on Friday night, seeking to point fingers at BuzzFeed instead of, in addition to BuzzFeed, themselves for running the story.
Rather than that, Stelter worried about the backlash, insisting on AC360:
"Don’t fall for what these politicians out there want you to do. They want you to think we are all crooked, we’re not, but BuzzFeed now — but now, BuzzFeed — now, the onus is on BuzzFeed, right? The onus is now on BuzzFeed. Ben Smith says he knows the identity of the two sources. Obviously, the reporters know the identity of the two sources. They’re going to be going back to those two sources and hopefully to other sources to try to get to the bottom of this. Now, it’s a dispute and I don’t know how that dispute’s going to be resolved....This will be used, obviously against the media as a whole. But I hope we can see past that and be smarter than that. I hope the President doesn’t guide everybody else to use it against the press."
So while Stelter and like-minded individuals may offer spin trying to condemn those making a broader point about the press’s credibility, the facts speak for themselves.
Whether it’s stories like those promulgated by Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, Dan Rather, Class Relotius, Brian Williams, or those my colleague Rich Noyes and I outlined over a year ago, the media inflict far more damage to themselves and their credibility than almost anything the president tweets or any single piece of research put out about their biases.
Unfortunately, the press have largely proven themselves incapable of this realization.