After Another CNN Trump-Russia Debacle, Should Reporters Caught Pushing Fake News Get 'Benefit of the Doubt'?
News reporting is about truth-telling, but there are no claims to infallibility because stories themselves can be no more infallible than the people who tell them. People misremember and forget, and sometimes sources can act maliciously.
But in the high-stakes world of political reporting, where false stories can crash the financial markets (as one did just a week ago) or media can destroy people's lives with the press of a "publish" button, should those reporting fake news be given the "benefit of the doubt"?
That's the question after CNN completely botched yet another story attacking President Trump and his family while pushing the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
The CNN story yesterday morning claimed that Donald Trump, Jr. had received an email on September 4, 2016, with a link to the WikiLeaks archive of the DNC hack more than a week before the hacked emails were made public.
This was then presented as proof that the Trump campaign had colluded with WikiLeaks during the campaign, and thus Russian intelligence. The "Trump colluded with Russian intelligence" angle was pushed hard by CNN analysts:
Other national news outlets, including NBC and CBS, claimed to have independently confirmed CNN's report.
CNN pushed the story heavily at the top of the hour through lunchtime. But at around 1:00 p.m. the Washington Post and then The Daily Caller lowered the boom: the email, sent by some random Trump fan, was sent on September 14 after the DNC hack archive had already been made public.
The Daily Caller published the actual email clearly showing that CNN had the date -- and thus the entire story -- wrong.
But CNN had cited "multiple sources" as confirming their story, and invoked that even when they finally corrected their story more than two hours after it had come apart.
When CNN reporter Manu Raju went on air with their correction, he divulged that they had not even seen the email before they ran with the story.