Monday, January 08, 2018


Maggie Haberman posted this on Twitter today:

What's the point of sharing this? What's the news value? Lauder -- a rich businessman, a Reagan-era U.S. ambassador to Austria, and now the head of the World Jewish Congress -- isn't telling us what he sincerely believes about Trump's mental health. These are talking points, written in the language of spin.

I don't want to single Haberman out. Many mainstream journalists think they're informing the public when they quote a spin doctor at length in a written story, or let one hold forth for several minutes on radio or TV. NPR specializes in interviewing spin doctors, who are challenged sometimes and just allowed to rattle off talking points at other times. For example, David Bossie of Citizens United was interviewed on All Things Considered yesterday. Asked about Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury and the president's response to it, Bossie said ... exactly what you'd expect him to say:
I think that what the president - first of all, this president, unlike a lot of career politicians in the world, you know, they're not as tough as this president. And when you attack his family, which is what this author has done, this president's not going to take that lying down. And this guy is the best counterpuncher in the business.
What is the informational value in this? BREAKING NEWS: Unswerving Trump loyalist is unswervingly loyal to Trump. MUST CITE NPR.

Bossie also said this:
... Michael Wolff did this exactly on cue to sell books. He took the most salacious, outrageous lies. Whether people in the White House or outside the White House or in the campaign or transition spoke to him or not, I don't know. But I could tell you, I wrote a book on the campaign and on the transition in the beginning of the White House called "Let Trump Be Trump." Our book has been out for one month. No one has questioned the veracity of the book.
In fact, someone has questioned the voracity of Bossie's book, which was written with Corey Lewandowski:
In their book, Lewandowski and Bossie, the former campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, respectively, said The New York Times provided then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort with a "transcript" of a forthcoming story in advance of its publication about allegations that Manafort received a massive payouts from a Ukrainian political party.

Over the weekend, The New York Times denied this took place, instead saying that one of the reporters, Barry Meier, sought comment from Manafort but did not provide an advance draft, a practice generally frowned upon in journalism.
If you're not even going to challenge these interviewees when they interrupt the spin long enough to give you an opening, why interview them at all?

All this gets us back to that Jake Tapper interview of Stephen Miller.

Asked about Fire and Fury, Miller says:
One of the other tragedies of this grotesque work of fiction is its portrayal of the president. The reality is, is the president is a political genius who won against a field of seventeen incredibly talented people, who took down the Bush dynasty, who took down the Clinton dynasty, who took down the entire media complex with its 90% negative coverage, took down billions of dollars in special-interest donations, and he did it all through the people and through his strategy and his vision and his insight and his experience.
That's not a newsworthy interview answer -- that's a 2020 campaign commercial (although someone ought to tell Miller how most Americans pronounce "dynasty"). If you want someone like Miller saying this on your airwaves, at least get him to put the bombast in a paid ad.

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