The communications teams at the State Department and Department of Justice spent the past couple of days trying to correct their record after the respective heads of their agencies were taken out of context by two Sunday news programs. CBS’s 60 Minutes and NBC’s Meet the Press both used deceptive editing to smear their subjects in a banner weekend for media bias.
Attorney General Bill Barr was the first to get clipped on Meet the Press. Anchor Chuck Todd claimed that Barr would not defend the DoJ’s decision to drop charges against former Trump campaign official Michael Flynn based on a shortened version of an answer he gave about the topic to CBS News’s Catherine Herridge.
Herridge asked Barr, ‘When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written?’
Barr is shown in the clip replying, ‘Well, history’s written by the winners so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.’
Todd was aghast at Barr’s answer, reacting, ‘I was struck…by the cynicism of the answer. It’s a correct answer but he’s the attorney general — he didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this is a political job.’
But if Todd had played the second half of Barr’s answer to the question, Barr talks explicitly about the rule of law. Barr continues in the part that is not shown to viewers, ‘…but I think a fair history would say it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It upheld the standards of the Department of Justice and it undid what was an injustice.’
Todd’s insistence that Barr ‘didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law’ when Barr does exactly that less than two seconds after the clip cuts off is stunning. It’s so blatant that one has to suspect Todd didn’t even bother to watch the full interview; he most likely saw the edited clip floating around social media or was handed the edited version by a producer and didn’t bother to investigate further because it confirmed his prior distaste for Barr.
DoJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called out the editing in a tweet, eventually forcing Meet the Press to acknowledge and apologize for the error:
‘You’re correct. Earlier today, we inadvertently and inaccurately cut short a video clip of an interview with AG Barr before offering commentary and analysis. The remaining clip included important remarks from the attorney general that we missed, and we regret the error.’
It’s hard to believe that the error was ‘inadvertent’, but Meet the Press at least attempted to correct their misinformation, unlike 60 Minutes, which has yet to fix their claim Sunday night that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believes the coronavirus was created in a Wuhan lab. In a similar scenario, CBS took Pompeo’s remarks out of context from an interview with a different network, this time ABC.
CBS accused Pompeo of attempting ‘to resurrect a debunked theory that the virus was man-made in China,’ pointing to his comment, ‘that was where this began.’ The network did not play the portion of Pompeo’s interview where he says, ‘I agree with [the intelligence community’s assessment that the virus was not man-made]… I have no reason to doubt that that is accurate at this point.’ CBS instead deliberately conflated Pompeo’s claim that the virus was leaked from a lab (another assessment from the intelligence community, mind you) with the idea that the virus was manufactured in that lab, making him sound like a conspiracy theorist.
Both of these incidents serve to feed NBC and CBS viewers with the perception that Barr and Pompeo are mere puppets of the Trump administration, acting in accordance with the President’s desires — in the first case, to free Michael Flynn, and in the second, to further indict China for the coronavirus — rather than men acting in the best interest of the country or in accordance with their own principles. The fact that both networks used edited video clips to do this is superbly dangerous. It used to be that biased news outlets delivered their own twisted version of what their political opponents had said; now, they’re chopping up actual source material, which makes the deception that much harder to spot.