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If Trump is innocent of collusion with Russia, what happens to the media?

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The media should tread carefully. They are already facing a credibility crisis. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool)

With the investigation into Russia's interference in our election underway, the mainstream media have engaged in rampant speculation about President Trump's administration. Despite any evidence of collusion or an actual crime that has taken place, publications and networks have drawn comparisons to President Richard Nixon and Watergate. They have wildly and recklessly speculated about impeachment and obstruction of justice. But no one is asking the more likely question: What happens to the media if the president is innocent?

The media are already suffering from a credibility crisis. Trust in the media is at an all-time low. And according to Gallup, 55 percent of people believe the media are often inaccurate. A Harvard-Harris poll had a similar finding, showing that 65 percent of voters believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media.

If you watch the news or read publications like the Washington Post or New York Times, it is easy to see why Americans feel that way. Trump has already been convicted by the mainstream media. Hardly is it ever mentioned that Democratic leaders like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff have both said they've seen no evidence of collusion. Trump has said he was told by former FBI Director James Comey that he is not under investigation. During a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Feinstein corroborated that statement.

Every day, a new bombshell of anonymous sources is dropped. In just the past two weeks alone, the New York Times' reporting of a third party account of Comey's memo following a February meeting with the president fueled headlines and television coverage across the country. A report that an "American official" claimed Trump called Comey a nut job to Russian officials had the same effect. The Washington Post's report, citing "two current and two former officials," that the president asked intelligence officials to deny there was any collusion with Russia also drove headlines and television coverage.

Americans should be skeptical though. These publications have gotten enough wrong for readers to question the veracity of the reporting. After Comey's firing, the New York Times reported that he asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for additional resources for the investigation. But that was contradicted by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe when he testified under oath that the FBI has adequate resources.

The Washington Post ran an article claiming that Rosenstein threatened to resign, but Justice Department says that was blatantly false. And contrary to the Washington Post's reports that the president asked intelligence officials to deny collusion, former CIA Director John Brennon testified this week that he never heard that from employees in the intelligence community.

A new report from Harvard Kennedy School highlights the media's deeper problems. It concluded that 80 percent of the news coverage in Trump's first 100 days was negative, never dropping below 70 percent and even reaching 90 percent at its peak. One network even devoted coverage to a story that Trump gets two scoops of ice cream and everyone else gets one, as if it was an indictment of his character.

We don't know what will come of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, but the media should tread carefully. They are already facing a credibility crisis -- sensationalized reporting without concrete facts will only further erode public trust in the media.

Lisa Boothe is a contributing columnist for The Washington Examiner and president of High Noon Strategies.