Kurt Eichenwald: Campaign’s worst hack (so far)


I’ve followed presidential campaigns for years and it’s never been an uplifting experience, but this year has marked a genuine low for the media. The basic problem is that the lion’ share of journalists covering the campaign are actively rooting for Hillary and are working hand in glove with her campaign to attack Trump while overlooking the Democrat’s own obvious shortcomings.

The media may have facilitated Trump’s rise back when he was running in the GOP primaries with its uncritical, circus like coverage that ended up elevating him above the 17 mental midgets he was running against.  But anyone who thinks that any significant number of journalists are in the tank for him now is clearly delusional.

Once the race narrowed to Trump v. Hillary, any pretense of fairness evaporated. There’s nothing discreet about the approach. Back in early August, when the race was close, Jim Gutenberg of the New York Times issued a declaration of war on the media’s behalf, saying, with breathtaking sanctimony, that Trump’s positions were so extreme that he was “Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.” Hence, journalists had no choice but to go after him.

Since then, standards have been systematically lowered as the media has effectively become an arm of the Clinton campaign. Look, there’s plenty of grounds to attack Trump — sadly, it’s necessary to repeat that constantly in an effort to minimize attacks from Hillary trolls —  but journalists are unelected: their job is to vet and screen the candidates’ ideas and programs, not to decide for the public which ideas and which candidates are acceptable.

I’ve been pitched anti-Trump stories for months by private intelligence firms working directly for Hillary or for clients — usually from the financial sector — who desperately want her to win. These firms aren’t doing anything wrong — they are paid to craft anti-Trump narratives and get their memos into the hands of sympathetic reporters — but journalists have an obligation to re-report and factcheck these memos before rushing them into print. As far as I can tell, that sort of due diligence has been tossed out the window in the current anti-Trump frenzy.

I’ve passed on multiple anti-Trump stories because the facts behind them just didn’t hold up. They weren’t necessarily flat out wrong, but the facts had been blown wildly out of proportion. Weeks later I’d see the narratives from these memos appear nearly verbatim in stories by major outlets, with the word “bombshell” or “exclusive” attached to them.

At this point, I would wager that virtually none of the campaign “scoops” are originating in original reporting, but instead are being crafted in the bowels of opposition research laboratories, primarily Hillary’s. (She’s got a much better funded and active opposition research arm, and there just aren’t that many pro-Trump journalists at major outlets to feed the products to.)

The idea that Russian intelligence hacked the DNC has never been proven but by now it is reported as an accepted fact, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies came out and vouched for it. I thought journalists were supposed to be skeptical of government, especially intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but that’s not the case now, when the media is on a war-like footing. It’s reminiscent of when Colin Powell went to the UN in the run up to the Iraq War and virtually the entire press corps immediately said he had “proved” Iraq was in the WMD business.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign has breezily changed the narrative about the leaked documents from the DNC away from the contents of the documents to the unproven fact that Russia stole them. Look, Russia didn’t write the leaked emails nor did it have anything to do with the DNC actively working to undermine Bernie’s campaign. But these stories are ignored or dismissed, while Hillary’s enablers divert attention from the damaging revelations by pointing to a John Podesta email that discusses his recipe for risotto, as if that is typical of the trove of documents that were released.

Trump’s tax returns were clearly leaked for political purposes and yet the story — based on three pages sent anonymously to the New York Times by someone with a particular agenda — was treated as a remarkable scoop and feat of investigative journalism. Yet the Times didn’t “obtain” those documents, they were mailed to the newspaper.

Among countless examples of shoddy journalism during the campaign, Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek has clearly stood out for his recycling of anti-Trump garbage.

Check out this Vanity Fair story from last month, “THE 5 MOST EXPLOSIVE REVELATIONS FROM NEWSWEEK’S BOMBSHELL TRUMP REPORT,” and someone please explain to me why we should be taking any of these allegations seriously? Yet this was lauded as Pulitzer Prize winning reportage even though his conclusions are stretched well beyond the breaking point. Here’s Exhibit A:

In April, Trump argued that South Korea and Japan should acquire their own nuclear weapons, taking some of the pressure off the United States to defend them. That policy, should it go into effect, would benefit the Trump Organization, Newsweek reports. In the 1990s, the Trump Organization entered into a business deal with Daewoo Engineering and Construction, wherein it paid for the right to use the Trump name for six condominium properties in Seoul and two other cities, Newsweek reports. But the South Korean firm also has an active role in nuclear fuel enrichment and energy generation in the country, and would likely benefit from a renewed nuclear-weapons program. Daewoo Engineering and Construction’s parent company, the Daewoo Group, later fell into bankruptcy, prompting revisions of its contract with the Trump Organization, but the two entities remain tied.

Seriously, Trump’s proposal here can be evaluated, but the idea that he is advocating for South Korea to obtain nukes in order to make money for the Trump Organization is laughable on its face.

And indulge me while I offer the second biggest “explosive” “bombshell” from Eichenwald’s story. I’ve read this three times and I still have no idea of what’s he’s trying to say:

The Trump Organization has been involved in a handful of development deals in India, leading to close ties with several political parties and powerful individuals in the country, Newsweek reports. One such connection is allegedly to Madhukar Tulsi, the head of real-estate company Ireo, who in 2010 was investigated for suspected ties to Sudhanshu Mittal. Mittal, then the leader of the country’s second-largest political party, was suspected of being involved in a scheme to funnel money earned from India’s hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games—a sort of mini-Olympics for the former British Empire—through tax havens and into Ireo development projects, Newsweek reports.

Charges were not brought in the case against either Tulsi or Mittal (the latter denied any involvement in the alleged Commonwealth Games scandal), but the investigation highlights how a President Trump could easily find himself entangled in foreign politics. The Trump Organization reportedly has several other major real-estate projects planned in India; at least one, a licensing deal with Panchshil Realty to build two 22-story towers in Pune, has run into trouble with local authorities over a land dispute. A Trump administration could easily make the ongoing investigation go away.

Read that carefully. Trump reportedly has a licensing deal in India with a guy who was once investigated and apparently cleared of wrongdoing, but the investigation “highlights how a President Trump could easily find himself entangled in foreign politics.” Eichenwald might want to have a look at the Clinton Foundation one of these days if we he wants to see how a potential future president has messy overseas entanglements.

Also, did anyone stop at the last line about Trump having the power to make the “ongoing investigation” — of what is not clear — go away? How? I didn’t realize that the president of the United States had such control over India, which apparently is a vassal state.

Since this article was published, Eichenwald has written a number of other thin stories that have landed him on cable news and gotten uncritical pickup from mainstream and liberal outlets. His piece about Trump’s two decade old $68,000 non-investment in Cuba — which clearly originated with a memo from one of Hillary’s op research outlets — was a ripe piece of red-baiting that would have been dismissed by MSNBC (which breathlessly covered it for 24 hours) had Hillary Clinton been the villain.

Yesterday, Eichenwald was back with a story claiming that Trump had received propaganda straight from Russian intelligence and rushed it out during one of his campaign appearances. There was zero evidence to back up his charge — you actually have to read this story to believe it — but the fact that Trump’s tale involved a mixup of Eichenwald and Sidney Blumenthal led Eichenwald to really work himself into a lather. “No, Mr. Putin, I’m not Sidney Blumenthal,” he wrote in closing the story. “And now that you have been exposed once again, get the hell out of our election.”

Hillary Clintons’ election is now a foregone conclusion, and media coverage of the campaign has helped her immensely. (So, too, has the fact that Trump is clearly unfit to hold office, but the menace she poses to the country has, in my view, been horribly underrated.)

For months, journalists have used Trump’s shortcomings to justify their bias. In a month, Hillary will be president; the question is whether the media will then start displaying some modicum of skepticism about her new administration and restore some integrity to journalism. Personally I doubt it. For most of this campaign many in the DC press corps appear to have been auditioning to be the next Josh Earnest and there’s little reason to hope that will change following Hillary’s upcoming coronation. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous articleThis Campaign Satire Might Save Your Day
Next articleSyria: Where there's oil, there's fire
Avatar photo
Politically eclectic DC-based investigative journalist and CEO, Chief Sleaze Purveyor (CSP) and Creator of WashingtonBabylon.com.