Thursday, January 12, 2017

BuzzFeed's Enormous Favor to Donald Trump

I just got around reading the BuzzFeed report, which you can access in a Google cache page. (BuzzFeed's notorious for its link-bait publishing model, so you won't give them any hits if you read the cached version.)

And see the commentary at the Blaze:

Certainly, the impression that President-elect Donald Trump gives in public is that he is upset with prominent online news site BuzzFeed for publishing an alleged dossier full of salacious details that Russian intelligence was allegedly planning to use to compromise him. Furiously upset, even — going so far as to call them a “failing pile of garbage” in a defiant press conference Wednesday morning. And who knows, Trump’s anger might well be genuine; but he really ought to be thanking BuzzFeed for changing the course of this story in a way that has been very positive for him.

Rewind the clock to Tuesday afternoon and recall what Trump was facing. CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who enjoys one of the broadest bipartisan reputations for honesty of any person in the media, was on television, flanked by reporters Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez and Carl Bernstein. Tapper reported that CNN had developed credible information that U.S. intelligence officials had presented evidence to both Trump and outgoing President Barack Obama that Russian intelligence agents claimed to have compromising information about Trump “of both a personal and financial nature.” Further, the agents claimed that surrogates for the Trump campaign had regularly been in contact with Russian officials throughout 2016, directly contradicting Trump’s fierce denials of any such contact.

Tapper made clear that CNN would not be discussing the contents of the allegations. He stated that they had not been able to independently verify them and thus would not repeat what they were. He stated that no one knew if the claims allegedly made by Russian intelligence were true or not. All they knew was that this dossier was out there, and it had been handed to Trump and to Obama, with the message that the Russians were allegedly trying to use its contents to compromise Trump. Responsible reporting if in fact CNN did its due diligence on the report.

Then came BuzzFeed. They, in fact, had no such qualms about publishing the contents of the dossier itself. They emphasized that the material was both “unverified” and likely “unverifiable,” but laid out the claims in all their glory.

As the dust has settled, a general consensus has developed that CNN’s reporting should be distinguished from BuzzFeed’s and that CNN acted responsibly where BuzzFeed was reckless. It should be noted, BuzzFeed has its notable defenders today, including the Columbia Journalism Review, but most members of the media agree: What BuzzFeed did was worse than what CNN did (if you grant that CNN did anything wrong at all).

However, from Trump’s perspective, BuzzFeed’s reporting did him a huge favor. The reason for that is simple: The contents of the dossier were so obviously suspect that they called the veracity of the entire account into question. What reasonable intelligence official would have taken this transparent pulp to the president of the United States without a shred of verification to back it up? None would have, it was virtually obvious from the document’s face.

Imagine if BuzzFeed’s story had never been printed. CNN’s allegation that Russians had unspecified compromising information of both a “personal” and “financial” nature would have been left hanging in the air. And it would have been believable by a large number of people. Polls have shown that, after a brief post-election honeymoon period, Trump is unpopular again and the American public is increasingly uneasy about his public posture toward Russia — a vulnerability that Senate Democrats have mercilessly exploited during the first few days of confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet appointments...