Steele Dossier: The media is facing criticism for its coverage of the now discredited Steele Dossier, which was meant to detail the alleged collision between former President’s Trump’s campaign and Russia. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Steele Dossier
This past Friday, The Washington Post corrected and removed large portions of two articles related to March 2017 and February 2019 reporting on the “Steele dossier.” In The Post’s own words, the dossier is “a collection of largely unverified reports that claimed the Russian government had compromising information about then-candidate Donald Trump.” The Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple published a lengthy response about the mistakes made by his outlet and others in covering the dossier. We’ve included a snippet below. “Outsized coverage of the unvetted document drove a media frenzy at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency that helped drive a narrative of collusion between former President Trump and Russia,” Axios’ Sara Fischer notes. Not only did this “help drive an even bigger wedge between former President Trump and the press at the very beginning of his presidency,” but “The Steele screwup will undoubtedly cause an even bigger rift in trust between Democrats and Republicans.” Here’s what both sides are saying.
On The Right
Right-leaning outlets lament that it has taken five long years to set the record straight. Two commentators think it should be called the “Clinton Dossier” now that more details are known about its origins.
“Steele dossier looks more and more like a Clinton lie. Where’s the media now?” Kaylee McGhee White, Washington Examiner: “The indictments of Igor Danchenko, the main source for the now-discredited Steele dossier, and former Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann all but confirm that the premise of the ‘Russiagate’ investigation was hatched and pushed by Clinton cronies. No wonder the media have gone silent. … For years, the media gladly pushed the Steele dossier and the rest of the Russiagate hoax as legitimate. But now that the dossier’s sources are being revealed as Democratic operatives, the media seem totally disinterested in correcting the record. … Perhaps the media don’t want to admit they were party to a corrupt political hit job. Or, more likely, maybe they just don’t care. Until we see some retractions, I’m inclined to believe the latter.”
“Durham and the Clinton Dossier” Kimberley A. Strassel, The Wall Street Journal Opinion: “It took a year for congressional investigators to reveal the dossier had in fact been commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, working for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It took two more years for Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to expose that Mr. Steele had relied on a Russian source who said he’d never expected Mr. Steele to present his info as facts, since most of it was ‘hearsay.’ Two more years on, Mr. Durham’s indictment says this source—Mr. Danchenko—obtained material from a longtime Democratic operative who was active in the 2016 Clinton campaign. Clintonites here, Clintonites there, Trump ‘scandals’ everywhere. … The Clinton dossier should go down as one of the biggest scandals in US political history. Not just for the breadth of the con, but for the time it has taken to expose it.”
“The crumbling of the Steele dossier” Editorial Board, Las Vegas Review-Journal: “It might be more informative to think of the infamous Steele dossier as the Clinton dossier. … The national mainstream media dug furiously into the story. The New York Times and Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting related to Mr. Trump and Russian collusion. … Five years later, the truth is coming out.” Keep reading.
On The Left
Left-leaning outlets and commentators are split. Some acknowledge the media’s shortcomings, including with respect to their own outlets, as outlined below. Others have not made any corrections or retractions.
“Arrest of Steele dossier source forces some news outlets to reexamine their coverage” David Folkenflik, NPR: “Think of McClatchy, which – the owner of the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, and other major metro newspapers, that news organization hasn’t retracted two separate stories claiming Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Kremlin agents in Prague. He didn’t. MSNBC and CNN gave a ton of airtime to former intelligence officials they had hired as pundits who gave it credence … All of which plays into Trump’s claims that the press was out to get him. … Let’s be clear. It doesn’t fundamentally change our understanding of Trump and his relationship to Russia. This didn’t prompt special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigations. He had questionable business dealings there. Trump wanted help from the Russians against Hillary Clinton. … But no one ever found any proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And the Steele report drove a lot of conversation and coverage for years. This harms the press’ credibility.”
“The Crippling Blow for the Steele Dossier” Barry Meier, New York Magazine Intelligencer: “Since BuzzFeed published Steele’s reports in 2017, many of the dossier’s key claims have failed to materialize or have been shown to be false. But this week, it may have been dealt a death blow when the operative used by Steele to gather material for the dossier was indicted. … It’s hard to imagine a turn of events with more dire consequences than the new indictment for Steele, the dossier, and Fusion GPS, the investigative firm run by two ex-Wall Street Journal reporters that hired the ex-spy on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and promoted his reports to the media. The [recent] charges against [operative Igor Danchenko with lying to the FBI] may also force a reckoning that some journalists who embraced the dossier had hoped to avoid — an examination of their reporting about it and their ties to operatives for hire.”
“Indictment of Steele dossier source is more bad news for multiple media outlets” Erik Wemple, The Washington Post Opinion: “CNN, MSNBC, Mother Jones, the McClatchy newspaper chain, and various pundits showered credibility upon the dossier without corroboration … A reckoning is years overdue.” Keep reading.
Flag This: Steele Dossier
Polling on topics related to Trump, Russia, and the “Steele Dossier” is extremely dated, so take these findings with a grain of salt. All the way back in March 2019, “Nearly half of all Americans still believed President Donald Trump worked with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared Trump of that allegation.” For context, “Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 election, but did not exonerate the president on the question of obstructing the investigation.”
Flag Poll: Steele Dossier
How do you think media outlets should handle disingenuous reporting based on unverified reports? Comment below to share your thoughts.