Did the Mueller Report Strike the Mainstream Media a Fatal Blow?

Jul. 5, 2019
Bob Adelmann

When pressured to defend itself against claims that it was biased against Donald Trump, the mainstream media responded that it was just reporting the "facts." Defending its nearly total commitment to the proposition that the president colluded with Russia during his presidential campaign in 2016, Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, responded: "We are not investigators. We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did." Martin Baron, executive director of the Washington Post, echoed Zucker: "Our job is to bring facts to light." Dean Bacquet, executive director of the New York Times repeated the canard: "We wrote a lot about Russia, and I have no regrets. It's not our job to determine whether or not there was illegality."

But what if the "facts" are wrong? What if they are incomplete? What if they are conveniently selected to promote a pre-approved narrative? To paraphrase Thomas Huxley, "The great tragedy of a false narrative is the slaying of that beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact." John Adams said the same thing, only differently: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

That assumes, of course, that facts are used to expose corruption, or report accurately an event. But when facts are manipulated, or ignored altogether, there comes a time of reckoning. For the mainstream media that time is now.

CNN's breathtaking decline in its audience following the release of the Mueller Report is symptomatic of the problem facing the entire mainstream media: it assumed that President Trump was guilty of all manner of offences involving collusion with Russia during his campaign for the presidency in 2016. CNN was the head cheerleader of that parade, but following that release the entire mainstream media has suffered a mighty, perhaps fatal, blow to its claim of journalistic integrity.

CNN's decline in its audience is simply breathtaking. In April, Nielsen reported that its prime time ratings dropped 26 percent from a year earlier, while in its most coveted 25- to 54-year old demographic (which drives advertising revenue) it lost 41 percent of its audience.

The decline extended into the second quarter, with CNN's 25-54 demographic suffering a 37 percent decline compared to the second quarter of 2018.

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It isn't just CNN that has lost so much of its audience and credibility. It's the entire mainstream media – including the New York Times, the Washington Post and MSNBC – which published more than 8,500 articles on the Mueller investigation, reflecting the foregone conclusion that not only was the president guilty but that the revelations to come would end his administration in disgrace and possibly prison time.

When Mueller's report failed to arrive at that preconceived and heavily promoted outcome, their audience began its rush for the exits. Matt Taibbi, a virulent anti-Trumper and author of "Insane Clown President" published in January 2017, wrote 26 pages expressing his disgust over the media's selling out of its former credibility. In his opinion piece titled "It's Official: Russiagate is this Generation's WMD," he compared the failed mainstream media's effort to vet claims of weapons of mass destruction by the Bush administration that led to the U.S.'s disastrous and monstrously costly war in Iraq.

Taibbi concluded:

As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it's led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We've become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.

We had the sense to eventually look inward a little in the WMD affair, which is the only reason we escaped that episode with any audience left. Is the press even capable of that kind of self-awareness now? WMD damaged our reputation. If we don't turn things around, this story will destroy it.

Unfortunately there has been no discernable effort to "turn things around," but instead a continuation of the attack on Trump and his administration, just in different forms. What the Mueller Report accomplished, however, cannot be undone. It has not only exposed the media's bias, but destroyed its credibility. The mainstream media has worked against U.S. interests for decades, and the Mueller Report has exposed its evil bent.

It might be an irony of history that when history writes of the Trump presidency it will report that his lasting legacy was not only exposing the media's bias but, more importantly, rendering it inconsequential.



John Adams quote

Thomas Huxley quote

Forbes: Fox News Dominates 2Q Ratings, Hitting 70 Consecutive Quarters At #1

Deadline.com: Fox News Tops Cable Ratings Again In Q2 Despite Well-Watched Dem Debates On MSNBC; Tucker Carlson Up, Rachel Maddow Down

Washington Examiner: Fox News prime-time lineup beats CNN's entire lineup in second quarter ratings

Breitbart.com: Nolte: CNN Death Spiral Continues with Double Digit Q2 Ratings Collapse

Western Journal: CNN Ratings Tank, Down 26% from This Time Last Year

The New York Times: After Mueller Report, News Media Leaders Defend Their Work

It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD, by Matt Taibbi

The Gateway Pundit: Rachel Maddow's Ratings Plunge, CNN Ratings Drop Another 16% In Prime-Time

Background on Matt Taibbi

Insane Clown President, by Matt Taibbi

Background on the Mueller Report

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