September 7, 2020

Another Day, Another Smear Job

The Atlantic’s latest story about Trump is a disgrace by journalistic standards.

The most shocking thing about this anonymously sourced hit piece by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg isn’t its incendiary claim that President Donald Trump called our honored dead from World War I “suckers” and “losers.”

No, the most shocking thing — the most jaw-dropping thing — is that Goldberg and his editors actually believed it would have its intended effect; that even a single potential Trump voter would read their hyper-partisan hatchet job and think, Welp, the president said our boys were suckers and losers, so Scranton Joe it is!

Clearly, Jeffrey’s been bit by the Trump Derangement bug. And he’s been watching too many old clips of CBS’s Dan Rather.

But at least Rather and his “60 Minutes” crew had a source when they interfered in the 2004 election with the infamous “fake but accurate” attack on President George W. Bush. Admittedly, Rather’s source was a flaky and virulent Bush hater. But, still, he was a source with an actual name — a guy whose credibility and motives could be examined. The once-proud Atlantic, though, sees fit to viciously smear this president just prior to an election without so much as a single on-the-record source.

Goldberg’s use of anonymous sources is especially rich since he himself decried their use in a 2016 New York Times Magazine article that embarrassed the Obama administration. “I did not find this mention of my name amusing at all,” he said, “because [the journalist who wrote the story] is making a serious, unsourced, and unsubstantiated allegation against me in an otherwise highly credible publication.”

As for his own story, Goldberg claims his sources would be standing tall if it weren’t for, well, social media. “They don’t want to be inundated with angry tweets and all the rest,” he says with a straight face.

And hacks like him wonder why grassroots Americans don’t trust the media.

As always, President Trump was quick to respond. More important, though, were the witnesses — now 10 in all — who have since jumped to his defense. Said former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney: “I never heard the President disparage our war dead or wounded. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I was with him at the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. As we flew over the beaches by helicopter he was outwardly in awe of the accomplishments of the Allied Forces, and the sacrifices they paid.”

Not even Trump-hating John Bolton believes The Atlantic. “I didn’t hear either of those comments or anything even resembling them,” he said. “I was there at the point in time that morning when it was decided that he would not go Aisne-Marne cemetery. He decided not to do it because of John Kelly’s recommendation. It was entirely a weather-related decision, and I thought the proper thing to do. I never heard he made that kind of comment about another country’s forces either, no.”

Bolton also asserted that if the president had said he didn’t want to visit Aisne-Marne because the interred heroes were “losers” and “suckers,” he would have written an entire chapter about it in his book. Enough said.

Well, almost enough. Joe Biden’s handlers also leaped into the fray, describing the president’s remarks as “disgusting” and “damnable.” At the same time, Biden surrogates like Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth saw fit to blast Trump for having received five Vietnam draft deferments due to bone spurs. Perhaps Duckworth was unaware that Joe Biden received five Vietnam draft deferments for asthma, despite having played football in high school and college.

Time was when a publication like The Atlantic could get away with using anonymous sources. This is how former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein tried to justify it — by trying to compare the Atlantic’s piece to the Watergate reporting he and Bob Woodward did nearly half a century ago. “That’s the only way to do this,” he said. “And we must continue in the press to do our reporting day by day by day because that’s how we know who this president — what this presidency really is. The fake news is the president’s news. We’re doing the real reporting.”

Bernstein is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, as Sharyl Attkisson’s exhaustive list of fake news in the Trump era proves. And besides, back when Woodward and Bernstein were blazing the trail for a new generation of advocacy journalists, most Americans still trusted the Fourth Estate. These days, however, 55% of us don’t trust reporters. And why should we? A 2017 Harvard study found CNN and NBC’s coverage of President Trump to be an astounding 93% negative, with CBS, The New York Times, and The Washington Post following close behind.

As for the awfulness of this particular story, even the first lady felt compelled to weigh in. “The Atlantic story is not true,” she tweeted. “It has become a very dangerous time when anonymous sources are believed above all else, & no one knows their motivation. This is not journalism — It is activism. And it is a disservice to the people of our great nation.”

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