- - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

There need be no doubt any more: America’s mainstream media hypes fake news — and that’s a fact.

Last week was a debacle for the press. A slew of fake stories rained down, pushed by anxious anchormen placed in powerful posts.

On Dec. 1, ABC News reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was ready to testify that presidential candidate Donald Trump directed him to contact Russian officials. That would’ve been a big no-no.

But it wasn’t true. The network waited most of the day to issue a “clarification” that said President-elect Donald Trump directed Mr. Flynn to reach out to the Russians — a huge difference, as incoming administrations routinely begin communications with foreign leaders.

The stock market plunged on the “news,” dropping 350 points. A day later, the reporter responsible for the story, Brian Ross, was suspended for four weeks and the network said he would no longer cover President Trump.

On Tuesday, Reuters and Bloomberg, two left-leaning wire services that have bashed Mr. Trump from the outset, reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records on Mr. Trump and his family members. But that wasn’t true, either. The Wall Street Journal later reported that the subpoenas didn’t target Mr. Trump and his family, but rather “people or entities close to Mr. Trump.” Big difference (or as Mr. Trump would say, “yuuuuuge”).

Then on Friday, CNN reported that Donald Trump Jr. and senior Trump campaign officials — possibly even Mr. Trump himself — received an email on Sept. 4, 2016, directing them to what CNN said were unreleased WikiLeaks documents that may have been hacked from the Democratic National Committee.

At 11 a.m., “The Most Trusted Name In News” did a 13-minute report on the WikiLeaks email, with reporters and anchors breathlessly detailing the ramifications. Under a blaring all-capitals chyron of “breaking news,” anchor Kate Bolduan opened the segment with this declaration: “More emails, more problems for Donald Trump Jr.”

Within minutes, other “news” organizations claimed to have independently confirmed the story, and reported it on air and on their websites, including CBS News and MSNBC. The story snowballed, being shared across social media and leading each hour’s newscast on cable networks.

Not until nearly five hours later did the CNN reporter responsible for the story, Manu Raju, post a correction on Twitter:

“Correction: Email to Trump and Trump Jr. from individual offering Wikileaks documents came Sept. 14 — not Sept. 4 — as we reported earlier. Email pointed to docs Trump camp could get publicly,” he wrote.

The date was wrong — and the date was the whole story. WikiLeaks dumped a trove of documents on Sept. 13, so someone sending the younger Mr. Trump an email on the 14th — the day after the dump — means that someone was simply alerting him to the fact that there were documents out there, publicly available.

Mr. Trump lit into CNN on Twitter.

“Fake News CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake yesterday. They were caught red handed, just like lonely Brian Ross at ABC News (who should be immediately fired for his ‘mistake’). Watch to see if @CNN fires those responsible, or was it just gross incompetence?”

Mr. Trump is exactly right. Why won’t CNN take punitive action against its reporters that got the story so wrong? And why doesn’t CNN simply expose the fraudsters who supplied the network with the phony story in the first place? CNN is under no obligation protect its sources, if the story was wrong.

What’s extraordinary now is the extent to which news agencies that hate Mr. Trump will go to damage his presidency. So blinded with rage and hate are the media now that they will run with stories without even checking to see if they’re true. And other networks and news agencies simply pick them up, claiming to have gotten independent confirmation on them (of course they didn’t, but they don’t want to be left behind).

The erroneous reports may have been mistakes from trusted sources — but in that case, certainly there needs to be consequences. Or, those reporting the phony story may well have known that it was false but tossed it out there anyway. Either way, there needs to be some sort of investigation — by the news agency at the very least — to determine what went so terribly wrong.

CNN’s Jim Acosta regularly bemoans Mr. Trump’s attacks on the media, and last week called on journalists to “resist” (which happens to be Page 1 of the Democratic Playbook).

But it’s his very network that supports exactly what Mr. Trump has been saying, that CNN and others often serve up “fake news.” Last week’s dismal performance by the press was just more proof.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact.

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

• Joseph Curl can be reached at jcurl@washingtontimes.com.

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