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The trend to jump to conclusions or run outright false stories about Trump-Russia have developed into a post-2016 election past time for mainstream media outlets. On November 24, 2016 The Washington Post published a controversial interview with anonymous sources from PropOrNot, a poorly-constructed website that listed several actual news sites as Russian propaganda outlets.
Due to the backlash it received, the Post added an editor’s note claiming that it could not “vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings.” However, the Post found the story valuable, in clicks and in propagating its own agenda, and has refused to take down the story.
On December 31, 2016, the Pospublished another false story claiming the Vermont Utility System had been hacked. The story was debunked shortly after publication, but not before several politicians and pundits ran with its bogus allegations.
An editor’s note was added to article: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” Not only was the computer not attached to the grid, but the malware code found on the laptop is common and in no way implied that the genesis of it was the Russian government.
 
A January 12, 2017 C-SPAN show was interrupted for 10 minutes with the broadcast of RT (Russia Today). C-SPAN concluded that the error was the result of a routing glitch. However, mainstream media outlets sensationalized the glitch and hypothesized that a Russian government hack was responsible The same month, BuzzFeed published a report on the Trump Dossier, despite the opposition research document that it was based on — and which the outlet also published — being riddled with errors and unverifiable assumptions.
 
Louise Mensch, a former Heat Street editor, and Claude Taylor, a former Bill Clinton White House volunteer coordinator, have built large followings by throwing out conspiracy theories and wild speculation about alleged  Trump-Russia ties. In August 2017, the Guardian reported:
Explosive allegations about Donald Trump made by online writers with large followings among Trump critics were based on bogus information from a hoaxer who falsely claimed to work in law enforcement.

Claude Taylor tweeted fake details of criminal inquiries into Trump that were invented by a source whose claim to work for the New York attorney general was not checked, according to emails seen by the Guardian. The allegations were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch.

The source’s false tips included an allegation, which has been aggressively circulated by Mensch and Taylor, that Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.

Despite their overt lack of credibility, they still maintain large followings on social media, and Mensch has been published in the New York Times op-ed section, and featured on MSNBC to discuss the Russia narrative. Other media pundits, such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have built large audiences with sensationalism, jingoism and false reporting on the Trump-Russia narrative. 

In June 2017, three CNN journalists resigned after publishing a fake story involving short-lived White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment bank under congressional investigation. Three months later, several mainstream outlets reported on a fake story that 21 states had their voting systems hacked by the Russians. The story was allegedly sourced from the Department of Homeland Security, but was later debunked by several states cited in the reports.

Two weeks ago, ABC News‘s Brian Ross’ breaking report that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors included a false claim that Flynn was going to testify that he was instructed by Trump to communicate with the Russians during his campaign. Ross was suspended for four weeks due to the egregious error. 

For all the hysteria over fake news, several mainstream media outlets lend credence to the polarizing partisan rift on the subject when they willingly push and sensationalize fake stories, only to delay correcting them and scoff at the criticisms of their mistakes. The climate that has developed around the Faux Resistance and Trump-Russia narrative enables grifters, lazy reporting, and sensationalism to thrive. Rationality has been abandoned in favor of Cold War era rhetoric that has replaced constructive — and factual — ways to criticize the Trump Administration and the forces that enabled its ascendance into office. 

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