Topic: Accuracy in Media
Brian McNicoll wrote in a Nov. 15 Accuracy in Media post:
With the release of the report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on the origins of the 2016 election now “imminent,” in the words of Attorney General William Barr, mainstream media has stepped forth to discredit it in advance of what are expected to be devastating findings and possibly even criminal referrals of Democrats.
The Washington Post claimed the Justice Department was not allowing witnesses to submit written feedback to the report, only to backtrack hours later and blame the confusion on Justice Department spokespeople.
The Post’s claim was refuted within hours by the Justice Department, and a later story revealed the Post had relied on anonymous sources for its claim that witnesses would not be allowed to submit written responses but could respond verbally.
McNicoll is trying to frame the Post's story as relying on allegedly unreliable anonymous sources whom the Justice Department had to "refute." Actually, the Post article detailed that the Justice Department reversed its earlier instructions to witnesses and allowed written feedback per department policy after intially declining to comment when the story first appeared:
The Post had reported hours earlier that — as is the case in most inspector general probes — witnesses were being invited to review draft sections of the report and offer comments and corrections. But — unlike most cases — they were told those comments must be conveyed only verbally, people familiar with the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the political and legal sensitivity of the matter.
It remains unclear why witnesses were given that instruction initially.
Witnesses, the people said, were being asked to review their sections in a secure area, after signing nondisclosure agreements, according to people familiar with the matter. The witnesses have also been told they will not be allowed to remove any notes they make about the document, the people said.
The initial directives left some witnesses concerned that their objections might not be recorded precisely and incorporated into the inspector general’s findings, the people said. The witnesses, they said, were also concerned that the process gave the inspector general complete control in characterizing any comments witnesses make — and left witnesses with limited ability to create a paper trail that might help them show their words were captured inaccurately.
At no point did the Justice Department ever deny that witnesses were told they couldn't leave written feedback. Thedepartment was also given a chance to comment before the article first appeared but it refused. Those are important details that McNicoll didn't tell his readers.
Instead, McNicoll complained that "the media" was trying to "dirty up" the report and hype its alleged contents, gushing that "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said the findings would be 'stunning' and 'damning' and indicative of a “system being off the rails,” and most suspect he is on the mark." "Most suspect"? Wasn't McNicoll just ranting about anonymous sources making dubious claims?
In reality, it appears the opposite is true: The report has apparently found that investigations into the 2016 presidential election had a proper legal and factual basis, and the only apparent serious offense involved a low-level FBI lawyer caught altering a document and fired afterwards.