NBC News Whitewashes Absurd Claim by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
When a media-favored politician offers a surprising, clickbait-friendly allegation along with a demand for "answers," a responsible media should first vet the legitimacy of the question.
On Wednesday, the Department of Defense published a report that critiqued the Obama administration's security clearance vetting failures. And NBC News, in an article titled "Report: Felons, people under foreign influence got national security clearances," offered evidence that the Trump administration deserves praise for having addressed the problems over the past year.
However, that same NBC News article then backed the legitimacy of Rep. Elijah Cummings' (D-MD) assertion that the DOD report is a reason to be suspicious that ... Jared Kushner colluded with Russia.
Yes, the NBC News article is that ridiculous. Cummings' response to the report was just about the last thing an objective reader should have concluded, yet NBC News did not challenge his conclusion. In fact, NBC News clearly made an attempt to back Cummings' statement.
From the article:
A Defense Department report obtained by NBC News found that 165 defense contractors had their initial security clearances revoked last year after further investigation linked the recipients to problematic or illicit activity, including questionable financial transactions, influence by foreign governments and even felonies like pedophilia.
The low threshold for granting what is known as an interim security clearance should be cause for alarm inside the Trump White House, says Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. Cummings cited the report in calling on the committee's Republican chair, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, to help him investigate the "troubling irregularities" with the security clearances held by President Donald Trump's senior aides. (Emphasis added)
Note my emphasis: the DOD report allegedly states that the 165 defense contractors wrongly given initial clearances most likely had those clearances revoked under the Trump administration. (Presumably, they were not all revoked in the first 20 days of 2017.)
The immediately relevant question to ask, of course, is "When were they granted?" However, a reader of the NBC News article would not have learned that pivotal information until the fourth paragraph. And a reader could not reach that fourth paragraph without first scrolling past a large, shadowy image of Jared Kushner.
If you did reach that fourth paragraph, the article instantly seems irrational:
The report captured data from 200,000 applications for secret or top secret clearance by defense contractors over the past three years, many of which were not fully adjudicated until 2017. It found that 486 applicants had their clearances denied or revoked. Of those applicants, 165 had slipped through the initial round of vetting and been allowed access to sensitive information.
So, after four paragraphs, readers of the NBC News article had been presented the following information: