Today has been full of firsts for me. First, I had to explain to more people than I wanted to what the term "Golden Shower" meant. Second, I had to actually tweet about how great Marco Rubio was doing during the Tillerson hearing. Now, I get to write about how Chuck Todd, purveyor of fake news and all things bothsides is actually lecturing someone else about publishing real news but calling it "fake news." My brain hurts.
Here is the skinny: Buzzfeed published this bombshell dossier of Trump's deep ties to Russia, his procivility for dirty urine sex play with Russian prostitutes and a litany of other nasty things late yesterday. The world went nuts, Twitter went insane, Trump tweeted in ALL CAPS about how he had NO CONTACTS IN RUSSIA AND HE IS INNOCENT AND HE ONLY LIKES HOOKERS FROM CLASSY COUNTRIES, LIKE SLOVENIA.
Kidding. Don't sue me.
So today, Trump went a bit nuts at his press conference. He railed against the media even more than usual, going so far as to call Buzzfeed a "failing pile of garbage" which I guess is better than a wet splash of warm Trump urine, eh?
Ok, so back to Chuck Todd and Ben Smith discussing "fake news."
Here is the exchange:
"TODD: Welcome back to MTP Daily, that was the President-elect as well as the President-elect's White House press secretary, lashing out at Buzzfeed after it published a dossier that had been circulating among reporters and government officials since the summer...and as we reported, at the top of the show, it included highly salacious, unvetted and unverified information. It went as far, apparently the intelligence community actually labelled it disinformation. Now Buzzfeed was the only news outlet to publish it. Most news organizations weren't disclosing details from it or even eluding to the details. In an e-mail to staff last night, the editor and chief defended the move writing this, publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017. Ben, welcome, sir.
SMITH: Thanks for having me on, Chuck.
TODD: Okay. I want you to explain this sentence, publishing this dossier refers how we see, referring to yourself, the job of reporters in 2017. That makes me think this is a decision you would have, you would not have made the same decision in a pre-Trump era?
SMITH: I think more the pre-internet era. There was an era I think there are reasons to be know nostalgic for it, reasons to have issues with it where we could act as gate keepers. We could say you know what, crazy people are claiming that Barack Obama's birth certificate is forged, we're not going to write about that, that's crazy. If you remember, we were both there during the first campaign. That was the first approach. And you see these things spread and you have to engage. But I think there was an era when you would be the gate keeper for information, and you would say -- and you would say to your audience, trust us, we're keeping things from you, but you should trust us. I think you could say that was good or bad, that was not the present day. I think this -- so there were and in this that context.
There were really two reasons that we did decide to publish this....and we like many other organizations have had it for weeks, reporters in Europe and the United States trying to stand up or knock down specific details. and -- but this was a document that was not just circulating at the highest levels, the most powerful intelligence officials in the country referring to it in briefings, the president-elect, reportedly, disputedly, the top elected officials, Gang of Eight, and I think, were starting to act on it. Harry Reid writing the letter referring to it. I think when you have an object that is in play, that is having consequences for the way the leaders are acting.
You have to ask, why should I suppress them. there are then good reasons. once though it emerged in the public conversation that there is this secret document floating around, full of dark allegations that we will not repeat to you. That I feel like in this era, you have to share your readers what that is. In an appropriate context and our original report, if you read what we wrote, it stressed that there were real solid reasons to distrust this and noted to specific errors.
TODD: You talk about context and you talk about putting responsibility on the readers, but at the same time, don't you have a responsibility of not spreading false information? Are you knowingly spreading false information?
SMITH: I mean, I think as with the Obama birth certificate thing, this is an incredibly difficult balance that everybody in our business navigates every day --
TODD: But you're not publishing a false --
SMITH: You are quoting people saying...we certainly quoted the President-elect of the United States making false claims about it and years ago we debated whether we should quote regular citizens in Iowa saying i don't believe his birth certificate. and I remember thinking at first, we shouldn't pass that on and then saying, this has become a force are now these factors in the conversation.
TODD: Haven't you just participated?...didn't you just -- and I'm sure -- I know this was not your intent, I've known you a long time, but you just published fake news.
SMITH: We just published a dossier -- I think that's a really --
TODD: Why is that an unfair description?
SMITH: I think people love to throw the term fake news around.
TODD: Trust me, I'm aware to like. diminish anything they don't
SMITH: But I think this was a real story about a real document that was really being passed around between the very top officials of this country. and then the question you say is it's okay for you to Chuck Todd see this document, It's okay for me to see it, okay for John McCain okay with for the CIA. Why is it not okay if for your audience? Which of your audience members comfortable showing it to you? Making not just seeing it, making decisions based on it, it is appropriate to tell you audience and respect the fact that they can say this looks like nonsense?"
The real question is, what is fake and what is real anymore? One thing this election has shown us is that even the real mainstream media will run with a headline, fact-checking rarely done, Trump tweets are taken at face value, with major fallout when the truth comes to light. If mainstream media had done their job, we would be inaugurating Hillary Clinton in 9 days, not the Orange Menace. Have we learned anything? Is this dossier the beginning of real news? Is this legitimate in anyway? Only time will tell.
But Chuck Todd focusing on the decision to publish it versus the actual information contained in the dossier is the root of the problem.