NBC and MSNBC figures have adopted misleading language also used by President-elect Donald Trump and his advisors to criticize and dismiss claims that Russia may have compromising information on the president-elect. A statement released by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that Trump was briefed on the allegations, which the intelligence community has not yet verified or discredited.
Intelligence Community Briefed The President And President-Elect On Allegations That Russia Has Compromising Information On Trump
CNN: Intelligence Community Briefed Trump On Allegations That Russia Has Compromising Information On Him. CNN reported that intelligence officials briefed President-elect Donald Trump on “allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about” him. CNN noted that “the FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations” but “has not confirmed many essential details in the memos.” From the January 10 article:
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump. [CNN, 1/10/17]
BuzzFeed Publishes Dossier Of Allegations. Following the CNN report, BuzzFeed News published the dossier containing the allegations, clarifying that it “includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations.” From the January 10 article:
A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.
The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.
Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government. [BuzzFeed, 1/10/17]
Director Of National Intelligence: The Intelligence Community “Has Not Made Any Judgement” On The Information In The Dossier
James Clapper: “The IC Has Not Made Any Judgment That The Information In This Document Is Reliable.” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement confirming that he spoke with Trump “to discuss recent media reports about our briefing last Friday” and noting that while “the IC (intelligence community) has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,” “part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security. [Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 1/11/17]
Trump And Aides Call Dossier And Reports About It “Fake News”
Trump At Press Conference: Dossier And CNN Are “Fake News,” And BuzzFeed Is “A Failing Pile Of Garbage.” Trump addressed the allegations at a January 11 press conference, calling the document “fake news” and “phony stuff.” Trump also called BuzzFeed “a failing pile of garbage”, and he told CNN reporter Jim Acosta, "You are fake news.” From a New York Times transcript of the press conference:
[DONALD] TRUMP: I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents that got together — sick people — and they put that crap together.
As far as Buzzfeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up — and by the way, we just found out I was coming down. Michael Cohen — I was being — Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer. He’s a good lawyer in my firm. It was just reported that it wasn’t this Michael Cohen they we’re talking about. So all night long it’s Michael Cohen.
JIM ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization...
TRUMP: Not you.
ACOSTA: Can you give us a chance?
TRUMP: Your organization is terrible.
ACOSTA: You are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir? Sir, can you...
ACOSTA: Mr. President-elect, can you say...
TRUMP: He’s asking a question, don’t be rude. Don’t be rude.
ACOSTA: Can you give us a question since you’re attacking us? Can you give us a question?
TRUMP: Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question.
ACOSTA: Can you state...
TRUMP: You are fake news. [The New York Times, 1/11/16]
Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “Sad And Pathetic” For CNN And BuzzFeed To Publish Report. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer began Trump’s January 11 press conference by criticizing “left-wing blog” BuzzFeed for publishing “highly salacious and flat-out false information,” adding that it was “sad and pathetic” for BuzzFeed and CNN to “run with this unsubstantiated claim.” From a New York Times transcript of the press conference:
SEAN SPICER: Before we start, I want to bring your attention to a few points on the report that was published in BuzzFeed last night. It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat-out false information on the internet just days before he takes the oath of office.
According to BuzzFeed’s own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of The New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was, quote, “Totally unsubstantiated, echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the internet.”
The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple. [The New York Times, 1/11/16]
Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway: These Are “Fake News Documents.” Appearing on NBC’s Today, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway falsely claimed that the “intelligence community gave no credibility and veracity to the fake news documents.” From the January 12 edition of NBC’s Today:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: What matters is that the president-elect had a briefing by the four top intelligence officers in our nation last week. We were very happy to receive them here at Trump Tower and for the president-elect and vice president-elect to get that briefing. Then no sooner do they have it than people are leaking information. What struck me most in Mr. Clapper's public statement that I'm sure your viewers can access for themselves, is Mr. Clapper re-emphasizing that the intelligence community gave no credibility and veracity to the fake news documents. [NBC, Today, 1/12/17]
NBC And MSNBC Figures Use Similar Language To Criticize The Allegations
NBC And MSNBC Host Chuck Todd To BuzzFeed’s Editor-In-Chief: “You Just Published Fake News.” Discussing BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the dossier before the allegations it contains were either verified or declared false, Chuck Todd claimed that BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith “just published fake news.” From the January 11 edition of MSNBC’s MTP Daily:
CHUCK TODD (HOST): But haven’t you just participated -- I mean, look, the fake news thing has turned into this, you know, it’s the worst phrase --
BEN SMITH: I think different kinds of information --
TODD: Didn't you just -- and I'm sure -- I know this was not your intent, I've known you a long time, but you just published fake news.
BEN SMITH: We just published a dossier -- no I think that's a really --
TODD: Why is that an unfair description?
SMITH: I think people love to throw the term “fake news” around --
TODD: Trust me, I’m aware. Of course.
SMITH -- to diminish anything they don't like. But I think this was a real story about a real document that was really being passed around between the very top officials of this country. [MSNBC, MTP Daily, 1/11/16]
NBC Host Lester Holt: Dossier Represented “An Ugly And Discredited Allegation.” Reporting on Trump’s press conference, NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt claimed the dossier represented “an ugly and discredited allegation.” From the January 11 edition of NBC’s NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt:
LESTER HOLT (HOST): After months of disembodied tweets as our primary insight into our next president’s thinking, Donald Trump held a long-awaited formal news conference today that was dominated by questions about Russian influence, not just in the election, but also including an ugly and discredited allegation that was brought to the attention of U.S. intelligence and surfaced publicly last night. [NBC, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, 1/11/17]
MSNBC Host Chris Matthews: Material In The Dossier “Was Classified As Disinformation.” Discussing Trump’s press conference, MSNBC host Chris Matthews said that “‘crap,’” which is how Trump described the dossier, is “not a bad word for it” and later claimed that the “material was classified as disinformation.” From the January 11 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (HOST): A strong, I thought, confident denial of Trump of any of this salacious material, even intelligence, as he called it, not a bad word for it, “crap.”
KRISTEN WELKER: Right off the bat, Chris, we didn't know if he was going to address it, but his press secretary, Sean Spicer, addressed it. Called it garbage. Then he took the podium, knocked it down. But he went a step further, and he targeted intelligence officials. He accused them of leaking this information, which is something that hasn't been corroborated yet. So, again, opening up this new rift with his intelligence community. Important to point out, as you said at the top, today was the first day that he acknowledged what the intelligence community told him, which is that Russia was behind the hacking in the 2016 election. But we couldn't pin him down on whether or not he was going to keep the sanctions that President Obama put in place and we couldn't pin him down on what happens next with Russia or if he trusts his intelligence community. This is fundamental to national security and you have a lot of people looking at this situation, Chris, and they're concerned that it could ultimately impact national security. I asked him that very question. I said, “Are you undermining national security by having this war of words with your intelligence community?” And he sort of dodged that question. But pointed to the fact that he's trying to get to the bottom of how to deal with cybersecurity.
MATTHEWS: Reasonable question, maybe you can answer it, but whoever leaked it didn't leak the fact that that material was classified as disinformation. So anybody who put it out was probably trying to hurt Trump. [MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, 1/11/17]
MSNBC Host Joe Scarborough Guided Discussion Away From Trump’s Feud With The Intelligence Community Over The Dossier, Arguing That “Real News Broke Yesterday.” Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough called Trump’s feud with the intelligence community over the dossier “the bright, shiny object” that distracted the press from “real news” like big pharma stocks dropping in response to Trump proposing to negotiate for lower prices. From the January 12 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): We're talking all about this -- this is the bright, shiny object. Big pharma stocks went down yesterday because what he said about negotiating for lower prices. There were about three -- he named a VA head. There was real news that broke out yesterday. Yeah, we heard about his Supreme Court justice.
WILLIE GEIST: And the business stuff, which I think --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): The business stuff is fascinating.
SCARBOROUGH: The business stuff. A lot of news broke yesterday, but this, I think everybody wants this behind them. I think the iIntel community wants this behind them. I think Trump's team wants this behind him. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 1/12/17]
NBC Host Matt Lauer Affirmed Conway’s False Claim That The Intelligence Community Said Dossier Was Definitively False. NBC host Matt Lauer said he “agree[d]” with Kellyanne Conway’s false claim that a statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “gave no credibility and veracity to the fake news documents.” From the January 12 edition of NBC’s Today:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: What matters is that the president-elect had a briefing by the four top intelligence officers in our nation last week. We were very happy to receive them here at Trump Tower and for the president-elect and vice president-elect to get that briefing. Then no sooner do they have it that people are leaking information. What struck me most in Mr. Clapper's public statement that I'm sure your viewers can access for themselves, is Mr. Clapper re-emphasizing that the intelligence community gave no credibility and veracity to the fake news documents.
MATT: LAUER: And I agree, and I agree exactly --
CONWAY: And that's really important here because -- that's very important here because I don't want people to leave thinking that it's been imbued with some kind of credibility. Really it was NBC News who broke the story yesterday, so good for you, that it says on your website that Donald Trump was not briefed on this intelligence matter. [NBC, Today, 1/12/17]