Those earnest faces on TV news programs may seem trustworthy but you can’t rely on them for the truth. Indeed, you can’t always rely on them for the facts. In my long media career, very little of the information I passed on was from first-hand observation. Mostly, I was repeating what others had told me. Of course, I tried my best not only to report what I had found out but also to disclose how I got the information. Sometimes the source was reliable, sometimes not so much.
I don’t know how TV anchors get their information these days. I suspect they have a staff of researchers to do their leg work. But they seem to absorb it into their systems as their own and they pass it on with such certainty that it’s tempting to repeat it as fact.
I am not talking about propaganda outlets like Fox News. They get most of their stuff from “spin” merchants on the far right – Republican Party press releases and bogus studies by conservative think tanks, for example. The folks who trust Fox News do so because they want to. It scratches where they itch. The rest of us either don’t watch Fox or view it through the prism of extreme skepticism.
I am talking about the supposedly neutral media – CBS for example.
Senator Lindsey Graham is learning the hard way that you can’t just take what you hear on TV and run with it – even if you hear it on a venerable show like 60 Minutes. He picked up a story that a Welsh security contractor told on the Sunday night show, and used it to justify a new assault on President Obama.
“The survivors, the people who survived the attack in Benghazi, have not been made available to the US Congress for oversight purposes,” the South Carolina senator said on Fox. “So I’m going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors are being made available to Congress.”
Now, he is left wiping egg off his face.
Turns out the “survivor” who gave 60 minutes a lurid eye-witness description of the attack on the US embassy wasn’t even there. He apparently made it all up to promote a book he has written on Benghazi.
The 60 minutes reporter responsible for airing the fabricated story has apologized for her sloppiness.
But so far I haven’t heard a retraction from Senator Graham. And I doubt we’ll get one.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the Benghazi “scandal.” Senator Graham and his ilk have been ranting for months about it. And every time they come up with a bombshell it turns out to be a dud.
You might remember that an attack on the US compounds in Benghazi killed four people including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and Obama Administration officials did not immediately acknowledge it was a terrorist attack. At the CIA’s prompting, they suggested at first that it might have something to do with protests against a made-in-America video that insulted Islam.
Republican critics have been yelping ever since that President Obama spun the facts to help his re-election campaign. Spearheaded by Senator Graham and his pal John McCain, they managed to block Susan Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State, claiming she deliberately lied about the attack on a TV show.
They’re still gnawing on that bone. Even when their “facts” are false – as they so often are.