Opinion: Credibility Of Critics Who Question Media Bias Strengthened By Kavanaugh Coverage
Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court has taken several wild turns since his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee finished and the committee was prepared to vote on whether or not to confirm him.
Just days before the vote, in which he was expected to be approved by a mostly partisan vote, the top Democrat on the Senate, Dianne Feinstein of California revealed that she had a letter for nearly two months with allegations against the judge.
After more than a week, the circus has gone full tilt with a New Yorker piece featuring a woman who claimed that Kavanaugh did a disturbing act during a night of drinking at a Yale dorm, yet no one sourced in the article can confirm that it happened.
The stories which have been widely reported in some of the most established newspapers and news networks in the United States have so far provided no evidence or corroboration to back up any claims made in them. Critics who have been hammering the national media for the past few years continue to gain credibility with each new development that has been reported so far.
The Washington Post went as far as publishing a piece on Monday calling the criticism a "conservative conspiracy theory." Remarkably, this piece acknowledges that the accusations are not corroborated by any witnesses named by the accusers.
In both of the accusations made against Kavanaugh, witnesses named by both accusers could not either remember the incident, whether Kavanaugh was present, or both. In the dorm incident, the woman told the New Yorker initially that she could not remember if Kavanaugh was the culprit, but after "6 days of assessing her memories" she changed her mind. The only corroboration in that story is actually not a corroboration, but rather someone saying that they remembered hearing about it from someone else later on.
As the committee works to get Dr. Christine Basely Ford to testify under oath about her allegation, in which she says a then 17 year-old Kavanaugh assaulted her when she was 15 at a house party approximately 36 years ago, the media and political circus surrounding the story has gone into overdrive.
The national news media has been tirelessly working to connect the dots that prove Kavanaugh assaulted Dr. Basely Ford and possibly more women.
While powerful politicians, high-profile members of the media, and activists who are regulars on cable network news pushed an agenda that is essentially replacing due process with only believing the accusers. At no point has any story definitively provided one ounce of evidence of the claims made against Kavanaugh.
Monday night, in an interview with FOX News Channel, Kavanaugh continued to adamantly deny the accusations. He even went as far as to say that he was a "virgin" until college. Of course, the latest development in the circus is that someone who went to school with Kavanaugh has his own rebuttal, which is (of course) unsubstantiated or corroborated.
University of Wisconsin History Professor Steve Kantrowitz decided to join the circus by tweeting that during a conversation with Kavanaugh in the Yale dorms Freshman year, Kavanaugh told him that he was NOT a virgin. Kantrowitz's profile clearly shows that he is a liberal, so it's safe to assume that politics had something to do with his tweet, but that national media outlets like the New York Times would run with it show why many people would think there is bias.
Once again, the latest narrative against Kavanaugh is brought by a claim from someone who cannot substantiate it in any way.
While most people would look at Kantrowitz's seemingly irony-free claim with a smirk, the co-author of the New Yorker piece gleefully tweeted about how it continues to undermine Kavanaugh's "credibility". She seems to be making that statement free of irony or any self-awareness.
The Kantrowitz tweet was just the latest in rabbit hole media coverage.
The New York Times (among several national media outlets) chose not to publish the story from the second accuser because it could not find anyone to corroborate the accusation, but it instead ran a profile on Kavanaugh's high school yearbook profile.
The story probed the meaning behind the different clubs and other entries Kavanaugh posted about, claiming they tied to sexual exploits and other nefarious activity. The article's sources are, of course, "anonymous". What the article alleges served as a means to fire up progressive activists who declared it further evidence of his alleged assault and misogyny.
For example, CNN Political Contributor Joan Walsh used the article to tell her Twitter audience, "he is a pig and he has to go."
Upon further inspection, we learn that the Times used a now often-used tool in journalism of "editing" the article as time passes by. Mollie Hemmingway with The Federalist points out that the NYT article selectively identifies sources and leaves others out which would likely make readers question how valid it is. In other words, it is kind of like a spiderweb of anonymous sourcing and selective editing.
One of the men contacted by the Times relayed his conversation with the reporters to Hemmingway. He says they told them they would be running a story claiming that some of the entries are Kavanaugh and the others in the know are bragging about having sex with the same girl. The girl is named in the story, and is now reportedly humiliated and hurt by what the story claims.
However, Kavanaugh has denied that the entries referring to the woman had anything to do with what is alleged, as did other men who are in the know about their meaning, including the one who talked with Hemmingway.
He did confirm the identities of the sources used in the NYT, one of which may have leaked mistakenly in the first online version of the story.
The original version partially revealed one the sources by leaving in references to a "Mr. Madaleno", but it was quickly updated after deleting . This was tracked by NewsDiffs, a site that tracks changes to news stories.
It turns out that the sources were identified as Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Progressive State Senator in Maryland who recently ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor. His campaign featured a lot of anti-Trump material, including "making out" with his partner as the, "number one way to piss off Donald Trump and the Republicans." The video did not get much attention and Madeleno only finished fifth in the primary.
The other source in the Times article was William Fishburne, a campaign surrogate for Madaleno. Both men attended Georgetown Prep. Kavanaugh denied the allegations made in the article, and many said that Madaleno and Fishbourne were not close enough to the groups to know anything about them.
What is clear is that, like all of the previous accusers, they are very liberal and not only support Democrats, but are very active in Progressive political activism.
The man Hemmingway spoke with says that he and the others who knew more about the entries did not want to go on the record, but that the Times did not print their denial. The men say they are afraid to reveal their identities because they fear the Times will "target" them and their families. The Times instead had no problem using the other two anonymous sources we now know are very politically motivated against Conservatives and Republicans.
The Guardian newspaper added to the Times story with its piece titled, "How To Humiliate A Woman: The Ugly Lesson Of Brett Kavanaugh's Yearbook". The article seems to blame Kavanaugh for the woman's "emarassment", without acknowledging that the story is mostly anonymously sourced and the sources contacted were used selectively.
True journalism is supposed to tell stories of what happened by obtaining factual information that can be substantiated. In the decades following the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, which relied heavily on anonymous sources at the behest of then-Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee, reporters have become more concerned with getting the big story that brings down powerful people than reporting the news.
Since President Nixon resigned, and the duo published the book "All The President's Men", which became a hit film, upcoming journalists have been enamored with the concept. Woodward and Bernstein have become lionized, and their techniques have not only gone mainstream, the mainstream has stepped well over the line of confirming facts and getting sources on the record to confirm them before reporting the story.
Bernstein continues to report, and Woodward has become celebrated for books about the White House and politics. He has also gotten a lot of criticism for using unsubstantiated information and very rarely attributes the actual sources. In some cases, people closest to those stories have said that he flat out made up the "facts".
There are other recent indications that give credibility to claims of the media's growing bias.
Back in May, while the media was reporting on Stormy Daniels and claims that Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to win the election, Daniels' Attorney Michael Avenatti was photographed cozying up with members of the media at a party hosted by CNN News Anchor Don Lemon. CNN gave an extraordinary amount of coverage of the Stormy Daniels story, including many appearances by Avenatti.
It should be considered very problematic that a news organization is seen openly and unapologetically in a close quarters with people it is expected to report on without bias.
Meanwhile, Avenatti decided to step into the Kavanaugh media circus, releasing a letter he sent to the committee the same night the New Yorker piece ran, saying that he represented a woman who could verify that Kavanaugh and a friend from high school ran a "gang rape" gang and attempted to drug women during that time.
As of Tuesday morning, Avenatti, who is being raised as a prospect to run in the Democratic Primary for U.S. President to challenge President Trump in 2020, backed off of his claim and blocked his Twitter account from the public.
That much of the national news media has pursued these stories is disturbing not only because of the lack of evidence or corroboration, but also because accusations of bias become more credible with each passing news cycle.
At the same time the media pursues every angle of Kavanaugh's high school and college personal life, it has downplayed much more recent accusations with more evidence of foul play against Democratic National Committee Co-Chairman and Congressman Keith Ellison, who is running for Attorney General in Minnesota.
While ABC's Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd said point-blank on Twitter last Monday that, "if this is he said, she said, then let's believe the she in these scenarios," of Kavanaugh. When it comes to Ellison, who has not just denied the accusations of physical abuse, he has claimed that his accuser is fabricating the charges.
There is a virtual silence from the vast majority over Ellison's pushback, while Kavanaugh is routinely vilified for providing a list of more than 65 women he knew during his high school and college days who vouched for his character, providing a calendar he kept during those days that he says establishes where he was, even saying that he was a virgin during that time has become fodder.
The media silence appears to be helping Ellison the Attorney General candidate, as recent polls show that only 5 percent of Democrats in Minnesota do not believe his accuser.
On Sunday, the issue over the lack of evidence and corroboration was raised on CNN. Anchor Jake Tapper asked Senate Judiciary Committee Member Mazie Hirono (of "(men) need to shut up" in regards to calls for testimony from Dr. Basely Ford and Kavanaugh about the accusation) about both Ellison and Kavanaugh.
Senator Hirono quickly sidestepped the Ellison allegation and got back to Kavanaugh, and declared that, "I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases." She later refers to his past rulings as being "ideologically driven" and that his rulings show he "very much is against women's reproductive choices."
Tapper, to his credit, challenged Hirono to clarify if she was saying that because she thinks Kavanaugh would rule to overturn Roe vs. Wade, that she has decided he is guilty. Senator Hirono dodged the question, and ultimately said, "I believe her."
That a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is tasked with confirming or denying the placement of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice would decide guilt or innocence based on a difference of political beliefs should be shocking.
Instead, once great news organizations are attempting to interpret the meanings of old high school yearbook entries and apparently college freshmen lying about being virgins as a way to pursue the story they want to be true, and not find the actual truth of the story.