New York Times breaks silence on the Steele dossier

The Times breaks its silence with this op-ed by Bill Grueskin. He’s a professor of professional practice and former academic dean at Columbia Journalism School, and has held senior editing positions at The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald, and Bloomberg News.

Grueskin’s op-ed is called “The Steele Dossier Indicted the Media.” His piece is an indictment of the media, but only up to a point. He writes:

Many of the dossier’s allegations have turned out to be fictitious or, at best, unprovable. That wasn’t for want of trying by reporters from mainstream and progressive media outlets. Many journalists did show restraint. Others couldn’t wait to dive in. . . .

Over time, the standards for proof diminished to the point that if something couldn’t be proved to be false, the assumption was that it was probably true. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow once put it: A number of the elements “remain neither verified nor proven false, but none so far have been publicly disproven.”

But then, Grueskin presents a series of excuses for the media. Donald Trump had curried favor with Putin. Paul Manafort did have ties to Russia.

Many of the denials came from “confirmed liars.” “Washington Post fact-checkers would eventually catalog more than 30,000 Trump falsehoods during his term in the White House.” (Joe Biden’s total is mounting quickly, but I doubt that Post’s “fact-checkers” are keeping score on him.) Trump “had been berating journalists as charlatans.”

Even so, Grueskin says that “news organizations that uncritically amplified the Steele dossier ought to come to terms with their records, sooner or later,” “hard” as this is to do.

I believe such news organizations have already come to terms with their handling of the Steele dossier — some by saying to themselves “mission accomplished”; others by relying on the BS excuses Grueskin lays out for them.

What they haven’t done, and won’t do, is acknowledge that they didn’t care whether the allegations in the Steele dossier were true. It was enough that they were likely to injure Trump.

My friend who reads the Times sees Grueskin’s op-ed as the prelude to an official statement of error by the Times. If so, what I said about the Post’s corrections to one of its dossier-based hit pieces would apply to the Times:

I view the correction as a continuation of the Post’s deception.

First came the bogus stories. Now, when the stories have been thoroughly discredited, comes the Post’s bogus attempt to convince the public that it wishes it hadn’t promoted lies about the President of the United States.

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