Wednesday

April 21st, 2021

MediaWatch

Who Pays When the Dying Dictator Wasn't Dying?

Tim Graham

By Tim Graham

Published May 6, 2020

 Who Pays When the Dying Dictator Wasn't Dying?
Rumors were rampant in mid-April when North Korea's communist despot, Kim Jong Un, disappeared from public view at a surprising time: when the entire benighted citizenry of the country is required to worship his grandfather Kim Il Sung as some kind of Marxist deity.

In a country this shackled, we would expect reliable news media to tread lightly. But that expectation would be wrong.

Two weeks ago, CNN anchor Jim Sciutto — former chief of staff to our ambassador to China under former President Barack Obama — tweeted, "Breaking: The US is monitoring intelligence that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's health is in grave danger following a surgery, a US official with direct knowledge tells me."

"Direct knowledge"? Think again.

MSNBC anchor Katy Tur threw more tinder in the box, tweeting: "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is brain dead, according to two US officials. He recently had cardiac surgery and slipped into a coma, according to one US current and one former US official."

How many times during the Trump era have we witnessed one or two "senior U.S. officials" feed the media a "bombshell" story that turned out to be wrong? The nation's top media outlets just say, "Trust us," when they hide the identities of their sources, because this information is so crucial and important. Debacles like this underline why the public should be skeptical of this daily lack of transparency.

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Tur later took her tweet down. Sciutto's still sits on the internet.

After the North Korean version of Russian newspaper Pravda put out photos of the dictator cutting a ribbon at the opening of a fertilizer plant, the story changed. Our anonymous U.S. intelligence analysts believe he is alive and well. The primary debunker of these rumors was the South Korean government, which insisted Kim never even had surgery.

Former CNN producer Steve Krakauer asked in his newsletter: "Speaking of accountability in the media — what is the penalty when a journalist gets a story monumentally wrong? The truth is — it depends what the story is, and who the journalist is." This was not an accountability moment.

It doesn't matter that Sciutto has launched other collapsing stories, like his claim last September that President Donald Trump caused the government to withdraw an important intelligence asset from Moscow in 2017. Soon after, The New York Times reported that its sources said the CIA "made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia" — weeks before Trump even took office.

But a NewsBusters tally of live, on-air CNN coverage found that the network spent a staggering 181 minutes on Sciutto's initial report, follow-ups and attempts to defend his faulty allegations. On the day this fraudulent story broke, Brian Stelter touted it in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter, even attacking Trump (as usual) under the newsletter headline "War on Truth, chapter 9/9/19."

In her Trump-campaign memoir, "Unbelievable," Tur groused at Trump and his fans saying: "(J)ournalism, honestly pursued, is difficult and uncomfortable. ... But rather than deal with journalism, we despise journalism. ... I don't get why protesting a broken political system also means you need to protest the very notion of objective truth."

Journalists like these should stop pompously protesting that they are a special class of humanity that represents "objective truth" and try harder to actually report some truth.

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Previously:
05/01/20: Michelle Obama, Saintly Buckraker?
04/29/20: Numerical Nitpicking of the Coronavirus Briefings
04/24/20: Earth Day Dunking on Humans
04/22/20: Manipulating Steele's Dossier of Disinformation
04/20/20: The Late-Night Comedians Rage at Trump
04/17/20: Biden's Protective Political Calculators
04/12/20: Academe Assesses the Conservative Media
04/05/20: Denial and Blame at The New York Times
04/03/20: The Kavanaugh Roasters Hide Biden's Accuser
04/01/20: PBS and NPR Offer 'Journalism' By Libs for Libs
03/25/20: Press Briefings and Ego Bruising
03/20/20: The Cleanup Crew for Biden's Flu Flubs
03/18/20: The Truth Vs. The New York Times
03/13/20: The Punditocracy Pushes Bernie Out
03/11/20: Who Needs an Epic Rehash of Hillary's Victimhood?
03/06/20: Sam Donaldson Couldn't Save Bloomberg
03/04/20: The Sudden Crash of Chris Matthews
02/26/20: The Old Media Presses Facebook to the Left
02/21/20: Another Corrosive Correspondents' Dinner
02/19/20: Woe to the Weaponizers of Avenatti

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