David Frum: People should trust the media because of colossal screw-ups like CNN’s

CNN — the cable outlet now seen by many as the least-trusted name in network news  — hosting a show called “Reliable Sources” is one straight out of the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file.  Or something fitting for Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone.”

On Sunday’s edition of the program, host Brian Stelter had Watergate relic Carl Bernstein and anti-Trump “Atlantic” columnist David Frum on to help him explain to viewers of the network why they should betray their better instincts to run — not walk — away from its menagerie of pathological liars.

As everyone on the planet knows by now, CNN committed the blunder of the century last Friday when it reported that members of the Trump Organization — including Donald Trump and Trump, Jr. —received an email offering them a batch of stolen Wikileaks documents.

According to Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller:

The story, which CNN published on Friday and covered extensively on TV, was touted as the first evidence that the Trump campaign was given a heads-up about documents stolen from Democrats.

But the story appears to have been riddled with errors, while also lacking key context.

Perhaps the most jarring error in the CNN report is the date on which members of the Trump Organization, including Donald Trump and Trump Jr., were sent the email. The network reported that a person named Mike Erickson sent the email on Sept. 4, 2016, with a link to Wikileaks documents as well as a decryption key to access them.


But a copy of the email provided to The Daily Caller shows that Erickson sent the email on Sept. 14.

That date is significant because WikiLeaks provided a link to a batch of stolen documents on Sept. 13. The group touted the release of the documents, which were stolen from the DNC and published by Guccifer 2.0.

Before this colossal mother of all nothingburgers was exposed for what it was, other so-called elite news sources had followed CNN’s lead.

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Glenn Greenwald wrote of the debacle that “Friday was one of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind.”

CNN now finds itself in an unenviable place. Having recently suffered ratings hits, this newest hot mess is going to take an heroic effort to convince the public to continue watching. Enter the aforementioned heavy artillery on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” to help viewers appreciate why the mega-gaffe really wasn’t all that bad.

Frum’s explanation, a video of which follows, proceeds from the assumption that journalists are like scientists. They’re not, and neither do “astronomers make mistakes all the time,” as Frum posits. They may be forced to abandon a hypothesis when the facts disprove it, but that’s not the same thing as making a mistake.

Frum is correct when he says that “science is a process of discovery of truth,” but even if we concede that journalists in 2017 engage in a similar process, that observation certainly does not justify the shoddiness of Manu Raju’s reporting, CNN’s lassitude in correcting the errors, or the eagerness of other outlets to jump on the story.


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