Neither did Liasson, Schieffer: We’re puzzled by all the puzzlement.
At the Atlantic, Hampton Stevens is amazed by the journalistic breakdown concerning Manti Te’o’s non-existent doomed girl friend.
Visiting us from some distant land, Stevens says he finds the journalistic conduct “incredible:”
STEVENS (1/17/13): Incredible, isn't it? Not one of the highly-paid, well-respected journalists at SI or ESPN even bothered to check the most basic facts of their stories. Charlie Rose and CBS, with all that staff, with all that preaching about "original reporting," yet nobody at the whole network even so much as bothered to pick up a phone to find out if the girl actually existed.We have no idea why people find this conduct incredible, although many people seem to. Consider a simultaneous journalistic breakdown about something which actually mattered:
On September 16, Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday programs to discuss Benghazi, among other topics. (On CNN, she wasn’t even asked about Benghazi.)
Almost as soon as Rice was done, massaged paraphrase began to circulate concerning what she had said. A very familiar old pattern obtained—the mainstream press corps quickly accepted these paraphrases as accurate.
Very few “journalists” looked to see what Rice had actually said. If they did look to see what she said, they certainly didn’t let the facts affect their misreporting!
How bad was the journalistic misconduct—the apparent failure to fact-check? Here’s what Mara Liasson said on Special Report:
LIASSON (10/10/12): I think the most kind of mystifying part of this is that Susan Rice was so definitive and so out over the tip of her skis, as they say, on the Sunday talk shows.Why was Rice “so definitive?” So Liasson asked Brett Baier, using the D-word two separate times. Why didn’t Rice simply say we’re doing an investigation?
Why not say then we're doing an investigation to find out what happened instead of saying definitively it was a spontaneous protest that got hijacked? That has caused more trouble than attack itself.
BAIER: Which is often the case in this town.
LIASSON: Yes, often the case.
In fact, Rice specifically said on September 16 that her judgments were not “definitive.” And on every show, she stated, again and again, that the FBI was conducting an investigation—that we would have to wait for its results.
Here she was on Meet the Press, making the very points Liasson said she didn’t make. Please note her use of the D-word:
RICE (9/16/12): Well, let me tell you the best information we have at present. First of all, there is an FBI investigation, which is ongoing, and we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired.This was Rice on Meet the Press. She said her judgments were not definitive—that we would have to wait for the results of the investigation. And here she was on Face the Nation, making the same two points:
RICE (9/16/12): Well, Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the [Libyan] president, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch, led by the FBI, that has begun...And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions.Four weeks later, Liasson seemed to have no idea what Rice had actually said. Either that, or Liasson deliberately misreported, keeping herself in line with the prevailing press script.
But so what? In a familiar type of journalistic disgrace, Liasson remains a star at NPR. She was never asked to explain her gross, absurd misstatement.
That was Liasson’s breakdown. Here was Bob Schieffer, a few weeks later, grossly misstating an obvious fact on his own show, Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER (10/28/13): How is it that so many of, versions of events could come out of this thing? I mean, you know, yes, yes, he— Yes, [Obama] said in the Rose Garden, he referred to a terrorist attack. But five days later, Susan Rice was right here on this broadcast and on other Sunday broadcasts saying that no, it wasn’t.Did Rice appear on Face the Nation and say that Benghazi wasn’t a terrorist attack? In fact, here’s what she said when Schieffer asked her if al Qaeda had been involved:
SCHIEFFER (9/16/12): Do you agree or disagree with [the Libyan prime minister] that al Qaeda had some part in this?Does it sound like Rice was saying it wasn’t a terrorist attack? She told Schieffer that it might have been al Qaeda affiliates—or that it might have been al Qaeda itself!
RICE: Well, we`ll have to find out that out. I mean, I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.
Alas! This type of malpractice is quite routine among our major political journalists. In fact, this has been the norm in our major political journalism for a good many years.
If we may borrow from Malcolm, this kind of misreporting is as American as cherry pie. People are dead all over the world because of such misreporting.
And yet, the force of denial is quite strong all through the rest of the “press corps.” And so, verily, it came to pass:
At the Atlantic, a scribe was amazed when sports reporters didn’t check facts—when they didn't fact-check an utterly meaningless story about a linebacker’s girl friend!
In what world do these people live? Did they travel down to Earth from the far planet Denial?