The New York Times said the facts behind a bogus Russia claim the media has been pushing for nine months now are “simple” in a story Thursday that does not mention the paper rated the claim as true when it was first used by Hillary Clinton.
Trump put the paper of record in a tough spot Thursday when he drew attention to the fact that the press has confessed to pushing a false claim that “17 intelligence agencies agree” on Russian interference in the presidential election. The New York Times and Associated Press both acknowledged the Clinton talking point is false this week, and conceded that in fact only three agencies working under the aegis of the Director of National Intelligence weighed in on the election meddling.
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“The reason the views of only those four intelligence agencies, not all 17, were included in the assessment is simple: They were the ones tracking and analyzing the Russian campaign,” The New York Times reports. “The rest were doing other work.”
Indeed, those facts have been clearly apparent since the DNI released the unclassified report in October 2016. Any reporter capable of using Google could figure out the Coast Guard intel agency probably didn’t assess the Russian influence campaign.
Yet The New York Times rated the claim as totally true when Clinton debuted the talking point in the final presidential debate, used the claim in its own stories, and did not correct the record until late June 2017, months after it was publicly and thoroughly debunked.
A follow up report from the DNI in January explicitly said the conclusion was drawn from three agencies — the NSA, FBI and CIA. And former national intelligence director James Clapper testified before Congress in May that only three agencies worked on the Russia meddling case — leaving absolutely no room for doubt. The Daily Caller News Foundation debunked the claim on the basis of these facts in a June 1 fact check, almost a full month before the Times had to correct the statement in a Maggie Haberman article.
The moment that triggered TheDCNF’s own fact check was a May 31 highly televised, public appearance Clinton made at a tech conference in which she said “17 agencies [were] all in agreement.”
Like an echo, Haberman, the Times’ top political reporter, repeated the talking point a month later uncritically as if out of Hillary’s own mouth. Trump “still refuses to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies,” she wrote.
How could a primary supporting element of a “basic fact,” started from Hillary, agreed upon universally, and then perpetuated in the media for nine months in coverage of the most important investigation in the nation suddenly be just a “simple” correction that does nothing to denigrate the overall narrative of Russian collusion?
Erik Wemple, media columnist at the Washington Post, summed the conundrum up nicely, writing, “Whatever your take on the fact-checks, the media laundered and recycled a Clinton talking point without too much exploration of the intricacies through which the intelligence community reaches its conclusions.”
The New York Times now concedes the truth, but chose to dismiss it as a “technicality” in the report on Trump correcting the record Thursday, and then accused him of using the truth about the claim to mislead the public.
“President Trump said on Thursday that only ‘three or four’ of the United States’ 17 intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election — a statement that while technically accurate, is misleading and suggests widespread dissent among American intelligence agencies when none has emerged,” the report begins.
It’s true that none of the intelligence agencies that did not work on the Russian meddling case have dissented from the DNI report. Why would they? But it’s a stretch to say Trump implied there was “widespread dissent” among the agencies in his remarks, when he was simply reiterating the fact that the media pushed a false claim for months and has now conceded the truth.