Steele Dossier: Media Malpractice

The Flag Staff Contributor
Steele Dossier: Media Malpractice
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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.

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Jeff
13 days ago

To be honest which non of these news outlets have been… teachers and reporters are kind of in the same boat. Too much freedom blurring the lines between facts and opinion. Freedom of speech is just that, but it also means you must not only defend the speeches you support yet denounce the ones you don’t like. Truth is truth. The most beautiful compliment or the most vial hardest hitting reality check. Years have been spent condemning a man that put up with all of this b.s. (for free as he donated the presidential paycheck to veterans) but actual made things better in this country all the while defending every step his shoes made every day. The Democrats haven’t had to “deal” with him since they blatantly rigged something cause if a mans poll numbers and mental patient speeches about young ladies isn’t bad enough they still can not stop thinking, fighting and talking about Mr. Trump. Guess that speaks volumes, I just can’t seem to figure out way reporting and teaching fails to have recourse when what you’ve been doing and saying has been found invalid. Does that make it right to not amend the course? Think about everything you have done in life, now imagine never getting into trouble for any of it? That’s the political version of parenting, do nothing raise problem kids that do what without recourse? Hopefully they all get paid really well like Bernie, another millionaire that has never actually had a job! D.c it the problem and we all need to remind them of one little fact politicians have forgotten… We the people… means you work for us! Now stop starving families and killing Americans for your new replacement voters coming through the southern border. This isn’t the American I’m proud of, this is a terrible game D.c has been playing and our home has been the game board. I say put it away and get to work replacing the terrorists in Washington.

Kelly Shook
13 days ago

Sadly the damage is done. This lied helped fuel the fire to an already fractured society and lead to even more hatred and trust issues toward government and media that will never go away.

Thomas Bender
13 days ago

It may be indulging in wishful thinking at this point, but journalists should try merely reporting verifiable facts…and not publish stories based on their own political views and desired outcomes.

Steele dossier linked to Clintons found to be grossly and intentionally false. Anyone surprised by that?

kanto
13 days ago

verify, verify, verify. No news outlet should run any story until they have verified the information is correct. As for news outlets that spread false info or that refuse to report real news I think supporters of these outlets should look to another source for real news and no company should advertise with them at all. Hold these companies to a high standard and they will start doing what is right.

Kathy
13 days ago

The media will never be able to regain credence to at least half of the US. Retractions and honest reporting should follow on this anyway but I doubt those who were brainwashed to believe this story will every read it. There are so many ways this story could lead – it suggests strongly that the Dems were colluding with the Russians to make this happen, and branded Trump instead as doing that. If Trump was doing some dealing with the Russians which is up for debate… why is Biden’s and his son’s obvious mafia-like dealings with China so legal and ignored by the jokers who call themselves journalists? Why is most of what Biden has said and done so far considered ethical by the media? Why was Dr. Ben Carson (as well as Dr. Rand Paul) disparaged and not considered doctors but Mrs. Biden somehow is a “real” doctor to these people? She obviously colluded with educators to write a letter condemning parents who object to what they consider offensive content in their childrens’ schools. Why do they think this is ok? These are just some examples. These news outlets will ***never*** live this down at least in the lifetimes of anyone alive today. Ignoring the violence and destruction of riots gone awry – letting violent people kill but condemning a white kid who shot in self defense? The news media is acting an awful lot like Pravda – hmm maybe THEY are COLLUDING with Russians as well.

Lara Haggerty
Reply to  Kathy
13 days ago

Strange, isn’t it how Biden cancelled our pipeline but okayed Russia’s? But Trump was the Russian colluder. Yeah try to sell me a bridge why don’t you! I feel everything they accused Trump of they are in fact doing now.

Michele
13 days ago

IF they were ethical, they should admit their mistake on the front page, they should apologize to President Trump and they should set the record straight. I won’t be holding my breath. What passes for news in the U.S. is hype and propaganda. I feel like I’m living in a third world country. Objective, investigative journalism is dead.

Lara Haggerty
13 days ago

I think all media should verify information before reporting on anything. I am sick of hearing about allegations, charged with, believed to be, and any other vague reporting that literally tells me nothing but unfounded gossip. Remember the media reporting how someone was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher? Day after day they beat us over the head with this narrative. Where was the retraction after this was proven false? How long were we beaten over the head with the Steele report which is now being proven false. How about the Wuhan Lab Covid link being a complete conspiracy theory? Too many examples of fake reporting like this, and these were off the top of my head……….

Tim
13 days ago

First off, when found out with the information being false, if they made a big deal of it (like this instance) and it was a major story it should run on the a front page story correction for at least five days of a newspaper or magazine. If it was on television or radio it should be their top story for five days in a row that they were ingenuous and didn’t verify the facts and come clean.

David Wysocki
13 days ago

Journalism 101 is verify, verify, verify. I hate to sound like a card-carrying skeptic but I believe that once the heat dies down on this, the lamestream i.e. mainstream media will go back to their old game of liberals are the greatest and conservatives are stupid. They live in glass houses and someone will start throwing stones, then and only then, our country may get a balanced media.