[guest post by JVW]
Here is a great lesson in how this country is dividing up into Fox News consumers and CNN consumers (in the interest of keeping this post as succinct as my prolix musings can ever be, let’s for the time being lump MSNBC in with CNN and allow CNN to serve as a proxy for both). Note the lede paragraphs of each site and how they subtly spin the news to fit their own preferred narrative. Bolded emphasis in all cases is provided by me:
Note, all of these quotes below were taken from the stories as they appeared at 1:50 pm Pacific Time, even though this post probably won’t be published until later in the day. By the time you read this, the articles at the links could have been substantially revised
Here’s how CNN sees things:
The Justice Department is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whose lies about his contacts with Russia prompted Trump to fire him three years ago and special counsel Robert Mueller to flip him to cooperate in the Russia investigation.
The request to drop the case, filed with a federal judge in DC District Court on Thursday, is a sudden end to a protracted legal battle that’s lately been fertile ground for Trump to attack the early Russia investigation and former FBI leadership he dislikes.
The court must still formally approve the request.
Flynn twice, before two separate judges, affirmed his December 2017 agreement to plead guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI about his interactions with the then-Russian ambassador during the Trump presidential transition. But last year, he fired his original defense team and waged a campaign to try to get a judge to reverse his guilty plea.
Here’s the same breaking news article from Fox News:
The Justice Department on Thursday moved to drop its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, in a stunning development that comes after internal memos were released raising serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to Flynn’s late 2017 guilty plea of lying to the FBI.
The announcement came in a court filing “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information,” as the department put it. DOJ officials said they concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
The federal judge overseeing the case would have to make the final determination to dismiss it.
The Justice Department’s characterization of the Flynn interview as “untethered to” and “unjustified by” the investigation is also quoted by CNN in paragraphs six and seven of their report, after they have informed us about how much the President and his team have resented the prosecution. Conversely, Fox News refuses to directly characterize Flynn’s testimony as lying, writing merely that he pled guilty to lying but has been trying to withdraw the plea ever since. Fox News, which admittedly has a much longer story than it’s chief competitor, also covers the reports from last week that “FBI agents” (i.e., Peter Strzok) had hoped to entrap General Flynn in a lie, which seems to be a subtle attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the whole operation to begin with. CNN’s story, in turn, points out that “[t]he Flynn filing was not signed by any career prosecutors at the Justice Department. Instead, the motion to dismiss was signed only by the politically appointed US Attorney Timothy Shea,” which I read as a dismissal of the motion as self-serving by the Trump Administration.
I guess that in the end we should celebrate the fact that we have two influential yet divergent media outlets reporting the same story, otherwise we would be China or Venezuela. But it says a great deal about our times that the same news article can be written from two starkly different points of view. It’s an important reminder that “news” articles are no longer designed to be viewpoint neutral, if indeed they ever were.