One of the inevitable consequences of the constant degradation of journalistic ethics is the widespread acceptance of the “if true” standard. It works something like this: “Sources report that politician Smith regularly has sex with farm animals. If true, this could greatly hamper his reelection efforts.”
In an earlier time, no journalist would think of doing anything like it. Not only would any false story open them to a ruinous defamation lawsuit, basic journalistic ethics would have prohibited it, and if any individual reporter were so lacking in skill or morality, their editors or producers would stop them. Sadly, that hasn’t been true for a very long time. The recent revelation of the NYT’s concerted effort to push a false story for several years in the furtherance of a Leftist coup attempt was mere confirmation of what goes on daily in the contemporary Media.
Most recently, the execrable Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC tried his luck at “if true” reporting, and it has not gone terribly well for him, as Fox News reports:
On Tuesday night [08-27-19], O’Donnell and fellow far-left MSNBC host Rachel Maddow discussed how Trump was ‘able to obtain loans when no one else would loan him any money’ when he tossed out the unverified speculation.
‘I may have some information, in this next hour, which would add a great deal to their understanding of that, if true, and I’ll be discussing it here,’ O’Donnell said. ‘I stress ‘if true,’ because this is a single source who has told me that Deutsche Bank obtained tax returns… this single source close to Deutsche Bank has told me that Donald Trump’s loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans and that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs.’
A stunned Maddow leaned back in her chair and responded, ‘What? Really?’
O’Donnell added ‘that would explain every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin’ if his information is accurate.
O’Donnell was sufficiently unethical and foolish to think ”if true” would protect him as he aired an unsupported and apparently false allegation against the President, a man who does not take such things lying down. No doubt, O’Donnell’s terminal case of Trump Derangement Syndrome also played a role in his though processes, such as they are.
Mr. Trump’s attorneys sent a demand letter to NBC, which resulted in this:
‘Last night on this show, I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting,’ O’Donnell said. “I repeated statements a single source told me about the president’s finances and loan documents with Deutsche Bank saying ‘if true’– as I discussed the information– was simply not good enough. I did not go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC before repeating what I heard from my source. Had it gone through that process, I would not have been permitted to report it. I should not have said it on-air or post it on Twitter. I was wrong to do so.’
So far so good…
‘This afternoon, attorneys for the president sent us a letter asserting the story is false. They also demanded a retraction. Tonight, we are retracting the story,’ O’Donnell continued. ‘We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate. The fact is we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast and for that I apologize.’
“We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate.” O’Donnell couldn’t resist another shot at “if true.” So he apologizes, but by saying he doesn’t know if the lie he pushed was true or not, isn’t really apologizing. That’s what passes for journalistic ethics these days. White House Press secretary Stephanie Graham made the point:
‘This is one of the reasons that a majority of Americans have lost trust in the media. Instead of applying ethics and standards to their reporting, journalists and left-wing outlets have weaponized the media, using it to attack and harass people with little to no regard for the truth,’ White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News.
Let us check the most recent Rasmussen Reports survey on the media’s reputation:
A new Rasmussen Reportssurvey also said most voters believe the average journalist is liberal, and few are conservative. [skip]
The survey analysis said 61% of likely U.S. voters think reporters at major news organizations like CNN, Fox News, and the New York Timesare public figures who deserve scrutiny. Some 19% disagree.
Significantly, 51% said ‘it is appropriate for elected officials to criticize specific reporters and news organizations,’ Rasmussen reported in the survey shared with Secrets before its release. Another 39% view the criticism as a threat to freedom of the press. [skip]
That is slightly higher than the 48% who said criticism from politicians was OK back in February 2017 when Trump began singling out news organizations that were attacking him.
And the public continues to view journalists as liberal. The survey said 47% believe the typical reporter is more liberal than they are. Just 19% of voters believe reporters are more conservative than they are.
It’s not wise to draw conclusions from polls in general, and certainly not from a single poll, but this is surprising only in that so relatively few think the media biased. Those on the Left delight in the Media’s leftward tilt, so refusing to publically acknowledge it is an issue of honesty—as in lack of—or political calculation, probably both.
This episode does reveal certain actual truths, however. Journalistic ethics, circa 2019, consist of telling any lie necessary and concealing any information required to aid Democrats. And perhaps most importantly, fighting back works. In this, and much else, President Trump is a leader. Sadly, “if true” appears to be the mainstay, and future, of a self-defiled journalism.