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Port: Comey testimony indicts press coverage of Trump

By Staff | Jun 16, 2017

By Rob Port

Forum News Service

One of the most remarkable aspects of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before a Senate committee, and there were many remarkable moments, was the spectacle of CNN issuing a correction to a major story they published before the hearing.

That story, based on anonymous sources as so many about President Donald Trump have been, claimed that Comey would dispute Trump’s assertion that he was told he was not under investigation by the FBI.

“The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published,” CNN’s correction to their article read.

It was published even as Comey continued to testify before senators.

Later, during Comey’s testimony, he was asked by Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma whether there were stories about the FBI’s Russian probe which were inaccurate.

Comey said there were many.

He specifically disputed a New York Times report alleging, again based on anonymous sources, that Trump campaign officials had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials. “In the main, it was not true,” he said.

There will be a lot of debate about what Comey revealed about President Trump’s interactions with him. There should be. It’s clear that, at the very least, Trump behaved inappropriately, if not unethically or illegally.

I hope there is also some room to debate the degree to which the press has failed the public in their coverage of President Trump and the many scandals and controversies surrounding him.

America is a nation caught between two unreliable narrators. On one hand we have President Trump, who can and does routinely lie and exaggerate. So much so that it can seem more impulse than stratagem deployed in pursuit of a political goal.

On the other hand we have a national press corps so enraged by the presence of Trump in the White House that they’ve abandoned their skepticism when it comes to stories which might prove negative for him.

They’re rushing to publish or broadcast sensational but thinly sourced stories which feed the bonfire of turmoil around Trump.

This is irresponsible. This does not serve the public’s interest. This serves the narcissistic inclinations of the national political media.

If the press truly want to hold Trump accountable, they should put away their egos and raise their standards.

Trump may well end up as one of the least trusted national leaders in American history. If that happens it will be his own fault.

Journalists, however, might want to consider that if Trump does achieve that indignity, it will be because he’s rivaling the low level of trust Americans have for the media.

A Gallup survey released in April said just 45 percent of Americans trust Trump.

A Gallup survey released in February found that just 32 percent of Americans trust the mass media, the lowest level of trust ever recorded by Gallup since 1972.

If the press wants to be effective in their coverage of Trump they could start by being fairer to him.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort

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