There used to be recognition even among left-leaning journalists that there’s enough wrongdoing in Washington to go around—that there are plenty of valid stories critical of Democrats, just as there are of Republicans.
But in recent years, they’ve abandoned the biggest thrill of their profession—finding official misconduct, a scoop—in favor of trying to throw cold water on investigative stories that don’t fit their agenda. This normally entails credulously repeating the claims of defense attorneys, self-interested public officials, or foreign regimes, and doing it with relish.
I saw it firsthand when I exposed corruption, cyber-breaches, and cover-ups on Capitol Hill during the 2016 election—what became the subject of my book, “Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats.”
My investigation raised issues that required urgent attention, but instead, Democrats’ reaction was crude. My reporting appeared in the conservative-leaning Daily Caller News Foundation, and somehow, they claimed, that negated the highly specific and amply documented facts presented.
The politicians involved knew better than anyone that the facts were real. But their message worked on the media: I’d spent a year investigating, yet a recent college graduate at The New York Times seemed to think one day of calls with a defense attorney connected to Hillary Clinton meant he knew the facts better than I did. He was being manipulated—and, in turn, was manipulating others.
The Epoch Times became the latest to be smeared with this playbook by NBC News this month. In fact, a specific strategy is routinely deployed to dismiss pesky facts without actually disproving them. It follows a blueprint:
Ad hominem: A partisan implies that a news story is wrong because of the outlet it appeared in, without having to point to a single error.
Identity politics: They allege that the wrongdoers in a story are only being pursued—without disputing their wrongdoing—because of bias such as racism, partisanship, or homophobia.
Straw man: They conflate the content at issue with something entirely separate, and show that to be false. In my case, media outlets pointed to an obscure YouTuber who had latched onto the subject of my reporting as a starting point for nonsensical ramblings. They used the passive voice to cleverly make it seem like I had said things that this unemployed YouTuber had said, then debunked that. In the Epoch case, NBC blurred bona fide FBI corruption with the conspiracy “QAnon.”
Ignore: The legacy media displays willful incuriosity, whereas the basis of investigative reporting is that proof isn’t in plain view. When the topic doesn’t fit the preexisting narrative, they choose not to look into objectively curious circumstances, then say they have seen no proof.
Guilt by association: Since the liberal media has ignored the reporting, the only people to share it will be conservatives. Then the media diminish the reporting by saying that it is “popular with” or shared by Republicans, as if that makes it untrue.
Complicated: Eventually, a significant mass of reporting accumulates, and since it has been ignored instead of being digested in real time on the national news, it becomes a lot for latecomers to catch up with. When it gets threatening enough, “fact-checking” journalists swoop in, summarize the basic premise incorrectly, and demand that the entire case be argued in one sentence. Then they dismiss it as “complicated” or “confusing”—as if not bothering to take the time to assess facts means those facts are wrong.
Government stenographer: The media resigns itself to the role of court clerk, simply transcribing criminal convictions. No criminal conviction means nothing happened. But throughout history, the best journalists have exposed wrongdoing that authorities had failed to address, spurring important reforms. And what happens when the subject of the reporting is misconduct by those government investigators themselves?
These factors culminate in the legacy media’s favorite new smear: “conspiracy theory.”
When you’re a reporter on the wrong side of it—pursuing truth in the face of cover-up—it can be lonely.
My understanding that this was a well-formed tactic designed to suppress inconvenient truths was cemented when I became acquainted with many of The Epoch Times’ senior editors, whom I found to be among the hardest-working and most diligent professionals in the news business. I read Epoch’s coverage daily and found it detailed and specific.
Its reporters followed clues wherever they led, instead of looking to reinforce a pre-existing narrative. Months before anyone else, they had transcripts of key, top-secret interviews by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Legacy media ignored these transcripts as unconfirmed or alleged. They had to—it was embarrassing that a scrappy, upstart newsroom had managed to scoop them on such a prominent story. When those transcripts were eventually declassified, Epoch was quietly vindicated.
In the NBC hit job, the multi-billion dollar corporation attacked the paper on the grounds that its supporters included followers of a spiritual practice that had been banned in atheist, communist China. The Chinese government has killed members of the group and harvested their organs, a British panel found “without doubt” in June. The NBC reporters may have had little grasp of global affairs, and they unwittingly carried water for a massive, oppressive China government.
It’s been said that the best journalism afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Apparently, that’s an outdated notion.
This appeared to be a bizarre attempt to attack President Donald Trump—whom liberals call racist and oppressive—by punching down against an oppressed religious minority.
Epoch’s crime, in NBC’s view, was approaching news coverage with the premise that authority is something to be questioned and scrutinized. Never mind that the Chinese dissidents who founded The Epoch Times arrived at this worldview by encountering a communist government up close and personal. Suffice it to say they know more about big government than the NBC writers.
Epoch’s so-called “conspiracy theory” was its stellar Spygate coverage. For two years, it has been among the front of the pack, following the truth instead of being part of an echo chamber.
The irony is that meanwhile, The New York Times and NBC pushed what can only be called an actual conspiracy theory—that Trump is a secret double agent for Russia. Not only Robert Mueller’s government office, but also all the resources of every major news outlet in America, firms like Fusion GPS, and even a $50 million opposition research fund managed to dredge up not a scintilla of proof of that.
But another lesson I learned is that, no matter how high up in government or media you are, one’s primary motivator is always emotional and psychological: the need to save face.
In that respect, can you blame NBC?
Its journalists spent two years digging themselves into a hole. They can’t admit that they bungled a story, or that others got it right, because the consequences would be fatal to their reputations and their careers.
Apparently, now they’ve dug a hole so deep that it’s reached China.
Luke Rosiak is an investigative reporter who has over the last decade worked for The Daily Caller News Foundation, The Washington Post, and the Sunlight Foundation. He is the author of the book “Obstruction of Justice” and winner of Michelle Malkin’s Bulldog Award.