New report 'The Press Versus the President' a win for Trump

The Columbia Journalism Review, led by veteran Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jeff Gerth, spent the last year and a half analyzing “in granular detail” the media’s “tortured dance with Donald Trump.”

Gerth focuses almost exclusively on the media’s reporting of Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia. “Gerth’s findings aren’t always flattering, either for the press or for Trump and his team,” writes CJR’s Kyle Pope in the introduction to the 20,000 word piece, “The Press Versus the President,” but Pope miscalls the outcome.

“I realized early on I had two jobs,” Trump told Gerth. “The first was to run the country, and the second was survival. I had to survive: the stories were unbelievably fake.” As Gerth proves, Trump’s claim that the news was “fake” was even more right than he knew.

On reading this report, if they ever choose to, Big Media reporters will feel much the way Bengals’ defensive tackle Joseph Ossai did on watching the ref throw his yellow flag after his late hit on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes Sunday. Sick. Forever damaged.

Gerth shatters the media’s glass house with a Thor-worthy hammer blow. So thorough is the wreckage that even Rachel Maddow would have hard time reassembling the pieces. Spoiler alert: She won’t bother.

Gerth has an advantage over the conservative media in that many key people in the government and in the media were willing to speak to him on record. The FBI’s Peter Strozk, for instance, would not return phone calls from a WND reporter. Nor would The Washington Post’s Robert Woodward.

Woodward did, however, speak to Gerth, telling him that news coverage of the Russia inquiry ” wasn’t handled well” – there’s an understatement – and that he thought viewers and readers had been “cheated.” Woodward urged newsrooms to “walk down the painful road of introspection.”

Few will. Gerth expressed surprise and dismay at how many people involved in this story refused to speak to him, Pulitzer Prize or no.

I suspect he is already dismayed to see the media response to his epic takedown. To be sure, the few surviving honest reporters have been blown away.

Gerth’s report “is absolutely devastating on how casually, frequently, recklessly and eagerly the press lied on Russiagate,” says Glenn Greenwald. Michael Shellenberger calls the report “a damning indictment of the U.S. news media.”

To the degree that media defenders have taken notice is to fault CJR for assigning the project to Gerth, “the guy who wrote the original, deeply flawed Whitewater article.” The Whitewater theme was repeated lemming-like in numerous tweets.

Gerth served for nearly three decades as a New York Times reporter. He apparently alienated Times readers by reporting honestly on Bill Clinton. Those days are long gone.

During the Trump era, as Gerth notes, the Times offset its failing print revenues by gathering flocks of new online subscribe eager to read the latest Trump dirt, however false.

Elizabeth Spayd, formerly the public editor at the Times, told Gerth, “The Times produced a steady stream of stories about whether Trump conspired with Russians to win the election without knowing whether the allegation was actually true.”

“It was a career-changing moment for me,” Matt Taibbi told Gerth. Taibbi has since abandoned “mainstream” journalism. The “more neutral approach” to reporting “went completely out the window once Trump got elected. Saying anything publicly about the story that did not align with the narrative – the repercussions were huge for any of us that did not go there. That is crazy.”

Crazy or not, the Times and the Washington Post went on to win the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on “Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connection to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”

The constant stream of misinformation and disinformation had an impact. Gerth cites an Ipsos/Reuters poll that showed “48 percent of Americans – 84 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans – still believed Trump or his campaign ‘worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.'”

Although Gerth does not report on the political consequences of the media propaganda, they undoubtedly shaped the 2020 election and the 2018 midterms.

In the fall of 2018, judged by any metric, President Donald Trump’s presidency was a stunning success. The GDP was up 5.2% from 2017. The unemployment rate declined to a 49-year low of 3.8%. Inflation had increased only 2.49% year-to-year.

The murder rate had fallen nearly 6%, the second straight year of decrease after a wild spike under Obama. No new wars had been launched, and the American death count in Afghanistan had fallen to 3% of its peak eight years prior.

Yet in spite of these tangible and undeniable gains, the good news was swamped by the “533,000 news articles published involving Russia and Trump or Mueller Democrats.” As a result, the Democrats gained 41 seats in the House and a leg up on the 2020 election.

The media have gone too far down the road to perdition to take Woodward’s “painful road of introspection.” The burden falls to the Republicans in Congress and especially to Donald Trump to jam the CJR report down the throats of the American media.

The jamming won’t reach their hearts, but it might just shut them up.

Jack Cashill’s newest book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities,” is now available for pre-order.

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