Wednesday July 18, 2018
NPR Sees Clarification in Trump's Obfuscation
NPR continues to piss me off. They do a disservice to journalism and to the country. They are part of the problem.
In the wake of Monday's Helsinki Summit, when Pres. Trump heaped praise on Vladimir Putin and cast doubts on his own intelligence agencies, NPR, this morning, broadcast an interview between their reporter Noel King and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). I made it about two minutes in.
First, they played a soundbite of Mitch McConnell warning Russia not to interfere in the midterms. It made him sound tough. The problem: No mention that McConnell was the one who torpedoed a bipartisan Sept. 2016 statement warning Russia about interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and warning U.S. citizens that this was in fact happening. So Mitch gets off. He puts party above country and he gets off. The relevant past is irrelevant on NPR.
Then King makes it all about politics. Trump's actions in Helsinki aren't near-treasonous ramblings that astonished everyone around the world; they‘re “possibly a political opening” for the Democrats.
But here’s the worst of it. In only her second question to Sen. Van Hollen, King says this:
The president then clarified yesterday. Did his clarification change anything for you?
Here's the clarification she meant. You probably already know all this but I'm going to write it down anyway for my own sake. Because it's kind of insane.
During the Trump/Putin joint press conference, Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press asked the following question of Pres. Trump:
Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?
Who do you believethe murderous, lawless, Russian autocrat or the FBI? And will you warn Putin to not interfere again? Pretty straightforward. Sad, indeed, that it needed to be asked in the first place.
And here is the beginning of Trump's two-part answer:
So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the democratic national committee? I‘ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I‘ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server and what is the server saying?
What is he talking about? Turns out it’s an obscure right-wing theory that has been debunked by everybody. Here's one such debunking.
Bad enough he deflects the question with these nutjob “we didn't land on the moon” conspiracies; then he gets to this:
With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don't think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They‘re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone — just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn't be gone so easily. I think it's a disgrace that we can't get Hillary Clinton's 33,000 emails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer. Okay, thank you.
There it is: the president of the United States, on foreign soil, siding with the Russian president over U.S. intelligence agencies. Then he delves into the conspiracy theory again. Then he compliments Putin on his “extremely strong and powerful” denial and more-or-less thanks him for offering Russian help to further investigate Russian interference. He thanks him for offering further interference into allegations of Russian interference.
It's all insane.
So what was the clarification that Noel King brought up? It's this: Trump claimed that he misspoke. He meant to say “wouldn‘t.”
Yes, in all that garbage, and all that praise heaped on Putin, yesterday the White House claimed that, in the part below, the “would” should’ve been a “wouldn‘t.”
My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.
Amid all the rest of that praise, those superlatives for Putin, he's now claiming he wanted to blame them. He returned to D.C., with Republicans in angry disarray, and, one assumes, they looked for options. The facts were against them; how could they muddy the waters? And they chose this. They saw this as their escape pod. Wouldn‘t.
And NPR and Noel King happily let them escape.
She called this change, this obfuscation, a clarificiation. “The president then clarified yesterday. Did his clarification change anything for you?”
The Democrats really need to confront reporters who ask dumb-ass questions like this. They need to say things like: “How is that a clarification, Noel? The original statement is at least consistent. He’s praising Putin and doesn't blame Putin. He's siding with Putin over the FBI but at least he's consistent in how treasonous he's acting. The do-over he wants would mean that while he's heaping praise on Putin, while he's blaming the FBI out of some right-wing paranoid fantasy, he's also siding with the FBI. Do you think that's a clarification? If not, why did you state it as such? You‘re making it a statement. You’re making it a fact. You‘re doing their dirty work.”
And guess what? Today he backtracked again. “Is Russian trying to influence the midterms?” Naw.
Seriously, how much further can NPR and other members of the so-called legitimate press get played? How much further to the right must they lean in a lame attempt to seem objective? And how much does the country—and the truth—suffer as a result?
Anyway, it was at this point, with the word “clarified” echoing all around me, that I turned off the radio; I was too furious to keep listening. NPR is so bad at what it does that it turns away people simply interested in hearing the news.
Monday’s New York Times headline. When the facts are against you, muddy the waters.