The news is getting record viewers, but is it gaining back their trust? After a historically bad year for people's confidence in the media, the coronavirus gave the industry a chance to make up ground. A chance, based on one weekend controversy, they're squandering.
Eighty-three percent of Americans trust journalists to report honestly on the outbreak, Forbes says. But politics? That's as full of fake news as ever. Over on NBC's "Meet the Press," Chuck Todd couldn't find a way to make the Trump administration look bad for dropping the case against Michael Flynn -- so he did the next best thing. He had the network lie about what Attorney General William Barr actually said. It was all part of an interview with Peggy Noonan, where Todd asked how history would look on the decision by Attorney General William Barr. He played a clip of Barr saying that "History is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who's writing the history."
Todd went on to blast Barr, calling him a cynic who didn't care about the rule of law. The same rule of law, it turns out, that the attorney general mentioned in that same statement -- but NBC, for reasons of manipulation -- did not include in the excerpt it aired. In fact, the network went to great lengths to cut around the statement, making Barr seem as flip and politically motivated as possible.
Of course, once word got out that Barr's words had been wildly taken out of context, it was obvious where the real political motivation lies. Still, NBC -- when confronted with the real footage -- posted simply that it was an "error." "An inadvertent" mistake. But there's nothing inadvertent about cutting out a sentence in the very middle of your clip. It's an intentional effort to mislead the viewer and malign William Barr.
Viewers know it. Chuck Todd knows it. The president knows it, and tweeted Monday, "@FCC This is a disgrace, even worse than @NBC usually is, which is really bad." As the chorus grows for an on-air correction, don't hold your breath. For the media, telling the truth would be just as "inadvertent."