The definition of “news” is very elastic these days. Another word we could use is “publicity.” When former FBI Director James Comey’s publisher, Macmillan, boasts that it will kill enough trees to print 850,000 copies — when a decent fraction of sales is in e-books and audiobooks — publicity is clearly booming.
The “news” media are stuffing Comey’s pockets with book profits, just as they’re drooling over the possibility of a similar boom in their ad revenues. “Telling all” about Trump is a proven get-rich-quick scheme.
Macmillan already made one mint this year with all the publicity granted to Michael Wolff’s tabloidish Trump-bashing mess “Fire & Fury.” How much better will the publisher do with the former head of the FBI? The national media lined up to provide Comey with publicity, a queue stretching endlessly. It started with ABC, which provided an hourlong prime-time special hosted by George Stephanopoulos.
The funniest line in the ABC promos was “Nothing’s off-limits.” ABC used to boast the same thing when promoting prime-time Hillary Clinton book specials, which was silly. Everyone knew Barbara Walters wasn’t going to ask Clinton about her strange luck in cattle futures, or illegal donations from the Chinese during then-President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, or her husband’s sexual assault or — well, you get the picture. Nothing’s off-limits except for that which ABC doesn’t want discussed.
Anyone who expected Stephanopoulos would display an ounce of objectivity in this interview doesn’t know Stephanopoulos. He did more facilitating than questioning. There are more worn-out Trump memes than news. Trump looked orange! He has small hands! He acted like a mob boss! He might be subject to blackmail by the Russians! It’s entirely possible that he hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed in Moscow! He’s morally unfit for office!
Where is the “news” in this? Where is the evidence? Where is the substance? This former FBI leader is a disgrace, and ABC was his enabler.
The only time Stephanopoulos showed any aggression was when he forwarded Hillary Clinton’s anger at Comey for ruining her chances. Stephanopoulos channeled the anger over Comey’s original on-camera announcement in July that though there was no reason to prosecute Clinton, she was extremely careless with classified documents: “Your critics say this is where your ego got the best of you. This was your original sin?”
“Original sin”? What theologian penned this question?
Stephanopoulos scolded Comey for having decided he had an obligation to inform Congress he was reopening the Clinton probe 11 days before the election: “Boy, you seem to be alone in that judgment. You look at previous attorney generals for President Bush, for President Ford, for President Obama, Justice Department officials for President Clinton; they all disagree with you. They say this crossed a line.”
Stephanopoulos even said, “There’s no precedent for putting out information like this at the end of a campaign?” How quickly he forgot that on the last Friday of the 1992 campaign, “independent counsel” Lawrence Walsh indicted former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-Contra scandal and released a pile of former President Reagan’s administration memos.
Stephanopoulos worked as Bill Clinton’s communications director that year. CNN’s Larry King interviewed then-President George H.W. Bush live in Wisconsin on that fateful Friday night, and CNN let Stephanopoulos call in and accuse President Bush of having lied when he denied knowing of an arms-for-hostages swap.
The networks, then and now, act as conveyor belts for “news” that makes Democrats happy or lets Democrats vent about what (and who) they hate. In this age of Trump-bashing opportunism, they have demonstrated they have exactly as much nonpartisan integrity as James Comey.
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L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.