- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2018


NBC News got a really big story wrong Thursday. It was based on tips from anonymous sources (obviously sources within the federal government and presumably close to the Department of Justice) and NBC News is still protecting those sources.  Why? 

NBC News reporter Tom Winter breathlessly reported that the US Government had tapped the phones of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen:

WINTER: “So what we know is that federal investigators pursuant to a lawful court order warrant were able to wiretap the phone lines of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. That this wiretap occurred several weeks before the now public search warrant that was executed here in New York several weeks ago. In addition to that, we’ve learned that at least one phone call conversation between a line belonging to Michael Cohen and the White House was also intercepted. So right now, I think the key headlines, there was a wiretap associated with the Michael warrant, search warrant in the federal criminal investigation into Michael Cohen who is of course Trump’s personal attorney. The second thing that we’ve learned is there’s at least one phone conversation that was picked up on a phone line belonging to Michael Cohen and the White House.

But, it was just plain wrong. 

Hours later, Chuck Todd and Winters explained how they got it really, really wrong: 

WINTER: “Now, three senior U.S. Officials are telling us it was not a wiretap. Instead it was what is referred to a pen register. That means it is a log of phone calls that were made from a specific phone line or specific phone lines.”

The difference between a phone tap and a pen register is, in a word, enormous

So, how did NBC News get this so completely wrong? It seems there must be one of three explanations:

  1. Their sources lied about the Cohen wire tap.
  2. Their sources made a mistake & fed them bad info & they ran with it
  3. Their sources had good information but NBC News misunderstood it & reported it incorrectly.  



As with so many of the major stories in the DC political news cycle these days, this story relied entirely on anonymous sources.  Anonymous sources are really the coin of the realm. CNN  just won an award at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner for merely picking up the phone when former DNI James Clapper chose them to receive a leak about President Trump getting briefed by James Comey on the political propaganda known as the Russian dossier. 

Picking up that phone and repeating on the air everything James Clapper told them to say constitutes award winning journalism. Meanwhile, the American people are left wondering about the one thing CNN didn’t report to us: WHY would James Clapper do that? What was his agenda? 

Now that we know NBC News was wrong with this story that relied on the veracity and expertise of their anonymous sources, don’t we deserve to know who they are? Why protect these sources? We deserve to know who lied to NBC News about this story.

Or we deserve to know that the Tom Winter got the facts wrong.  

Why would NBC News protect a source that lied to them? Why would they protect a source that got something so terribly wrong? Why refuse to explain to their viewers HOW they got the story wrong? Is their source an incompetent or a liar?  Is your reporter a liar? These things don’t just… happen. Someone screwed up. 

And we, the American people, deserve to know. This is the presidency we are talking about, after all. 

So far… nothing from NBC News.

Maybe they should have Joy Reid’s cyber security expert look into it.

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