It's difficult to open a social media platform and not see a reference somewhere to "fake news." The saying dominates President Trump's Twitter feed, and while his blanket accusations are unfair, the media continues to make it easy for him to drive the "fake news" narrative.
Earlier today, Eddie Scarry reported Jim Acosta erring in citing a supposed "fact" about the intelligence community's assessment of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election:
Speaking on CNN's "New Day," Acosta wondered where Trump got the "three or four" figure, though it has been reported that out of 17 agencies, only the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency have formally drawn the conclusion about Russia.
The Director of National Intelligence report, released in January shows only the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA assessed whether or not the Russians meddled in the 2016 presidential election. The "17 agencies" theory rests on a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security in October 2016. Since the DHS and DNI represent all of the government intelligence agencies, the Clinton campaign (and thus the media) started to use it as their "evidence" that 17 intelligence agencies all agreed.
Not only did Jim Acosta say it today, but NBC's Katy Tur also raised the "17 agencies" claim on Twitter. She deleted the tweet, but I captured it here.
Even for someone who is not a reporter, a cursory review of the list should raise questions. Why on earth would the Drug Enforcement Agency's intelligence division be asked to assess whether or not Russia tried to interfere in a presidential election? Common sense would tell the average person to look into the issue a little more carefully.
Not only that, former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, testified that only three agencies were involved in the assessment of Russia's role in meddling with the presidential election.
"As you know, the ICA was a coordinated product from three agencies. CIA, NSA, and the FBI not all seventeen components of the intelligence community," he said.
Confirming the information requires only some basic fact-checking.
Journalists are not always going to get it 100 percent right. But in this case, the New York Times issued a retraction regarding the same mistake just over a week ago. As for Acosta and Tur, they are not some stringers out trying eke out a living, selling stories to the highest bidder. Acosta is the senior White House correspondent for CNN, and Tur is a news anchor for "MSNBC Live." As such, they should know better.
The mainstream media has a trust problem with the public. Recent mistakes have given fuel for Trump, people in his administration, and supporters enough reason to show "Fake news!" The kind of errors made by Acosta and Tur only serve to further the distrust the public has for the media to the detriment of the public. A healthy and robust media is needed to help keep the electorate informed. If the public doesn't trust them, what's the point?
Jay Caruso is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog.
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