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An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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The High Price of Being First

Rich Galen

Monday December 11, 2017

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  • There is no other way to put this: The press frenzy to get Donald Trump is causing mistakes. Big mistakes.

  • Moreover, It is providing ammunition to the Trump family and friends that the press, as Don, Jr. Tweeted over the weekend, "couldn't care less about the truth."

  • As an example, on Friday, CNN spent the day breathlessly reporting that on September 4, 2016,
    "Candidate Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and others in the Trump Organization received an email offering a decryption key and website address for hacked WikiLeaks documents, according to an email provided to congressional investigators."

  • In its zeal to go with the story as an exclusive, CNN got the date wrong. It was September 14, not September 4.

  • Why does that matter? Because, as Politico.com pointed out:
    "WikiLeaks released a trove of stolen DNC emails on Sept. 13. The error was the difference between the Trump campaign having advance access to the DNC emails - a potential scandal - and the campaign having access to emails already available publicly."

  • CNN wasn't the only news organization that made false reports. ABC News suspended reporter Brian Ross for a month. As the Washington Post wrote:
    "Ross had incorrectly reported Friday that during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election."

  • That was not true and it took the whole day for ABC to get it right when (again from the WaPo):
    "Ross read a "clarification" on "ABC World News Tonight," saying Trump had actually asked Flynn to make contact with Russia after the election, when he was president-elect." [emphasis theirs]

  • Speaking of the Washington Post, reporter Dave Weigel stepped in it when he posted a photo on his Twitter account from the venue in Pensacola, Florida at which Trump was to speak over the weekend.

  • The photo showed the arena with large sections totally empty. The problem was, Weigel thought Trump was arriving to a half-empty hall but, in fact, when Trump actually got there the place was packed.

  • Weigel apologized to Trump and, of course, deleted the photo. But, it never should have happened.

  • All these errors surrounded a report that originated in a German news outlet but quickly spread around the globe when Reuters, Bloomberg and other news organizations picked it up saying that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Donald Trump's financial records from the global financial Kraftpaket, Deutsche Bank.

  • The Trump legal team said it wasn't true and it wasn't.

    SIDEBAR

    "Kraftpaket" is German (more or less) for "powerhouse." I took four years of German I in high school and I wanted to prove it didn't go to waste.

    There was a time when I could get the sense of the dialogue between a German submarine commander and his crew in a WWII movie which sort of made all those umlauts, compound words, and gender-specific nouns worthwhile.

    As Mark Twain wrote in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court":

    "Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."

    END SIDEBAR

  • Bloomberg issued an official retraction when, according to the website Seeking Alpha:
    "The corrected article states the bank records "pertain to people affiliated" with Trump, while the original reported that Mueller "zeroed in" on Trump, which was disputed by the president's personal lawyer and the White House."

  • But not before there was a full day of breathless discussion among the panelists on the cable chat shows as to whether this investigation of Trump's personal (business) finances crossed a "red line."

  • What the "people affiliated" language might mean was that Mueller tried to get a subpoena for Trump's records but was turned down. So, by getting the records of "people affiliated" he might be looking for, literally, a bank shot: "We looked at Person A's records at Deutche Bank and, wouldn't ya know it? we found all these references to the Trumps.

  • Maybe, maybe not, but the last 10 days of Trump coverage has left much of the press corps sitting on the naughty bench outside the Vice-Principal's office waiting to see how many days of detention they're in for.

  • The media has to get away from this "every day is a blood-in-the-water day." It will lead to an embarrassing, damaging, and potentially ruinous future for the First Amendment.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to The Hill's summary of errors, to the Politico look at the CNN error and to the Axios.com explanation of the Dave Weigel mistake.

    The Mullfoto is from the Best Buy in Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Virginia over the weekend.

-- END --

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