Sean Iling interviews mdeia ethicist Kelly McBride on whether Buzzfeed should have published the Trump/Russia memo on vox.com.
I think the real problem is the impact this has had on the conversation. Before BuzzFeed published the dossier, the conversation that we were having, and CNN was leading on the reporting, was that four senior intelligence officers or officials were so concerned that they had briefed both the president and president-elect on the existence of this dossier and what they were doing in response to this dossier.
Now that is a very different story than asking about whether the contents of the dossier are accurate. So we’ve gone from looking at the fact that there was a report that the Russians had compromising information to trying to figure out if the information itself is true or not. Those are two completely different stories. And you saw Donald Trump very effectively dismiss them both.
He lumped CNN and BuzzFeed together and called all of it “fake news.” And that’s what happens when you hand people the bat to beat you with. You paint a target on yourself and undercut your own arguments.
There is a real danger here that this maneuver can harshly backfire, to the great benefit of Trump and to the great detriment of those who want to oppose him. If any of the significant claims in this “dossier” turn out to be provably false — such as Cohen’s trip to Prague — many people will conclude, with Trump’s encouragement, that large media outlets (CNN and BuzzFeed) and anti-Trump factions inside the government (CIA) are deploying “Fake News” to destroy him. In the eyes of many people, that will forever discredit — render impotent — future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing.
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