By Dan Calabrese
Hey, who can’t get a story wrong when relying on anonymous sources who aren’t supposed to be talking to you in the first place?
Who can’t get a story wrong when you’re so eager to hype of anything that makes the subject of the story look bad?
Who can’t get a story wrong when you’re purporting to explain something you really don’t know anything about?
Obviously not NBC:
NBC News on Thursday corrected its report that federal agents had placed a wiretap on phone lines associated with President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
The news outlet updated its initial report to reflect that Cohen’s phones were subject to a “pen register,” which allows investigators to create a log of phone calls associated with Cohen’s number.
Its original story, which reported the wiretap, cited two separate sources with knowledge of the proceedings. However, three senior U.S. officials later disputed the report, prompting the correction.
“Correction: Earlier today NBC News, and this reporter, said that Michael Cohen’s phone lines were wiretapped. 3 Senior U.S. Officials now dispute that, saying the monitoring was limited to a log of calls (pen register) not a wiretap of Cohen’s lines. We will continue to report,” one of the story’s reporters, Tom Winter, tweeted following the correction.
The distinction is significant. The use of a pen register allows investigators to track incoming and outgoing calls from a number, whereas a wiretap allows investigators to actually listen in on calls.
It’s much more difficult to get a wiretap than it is to establish a pen register, unless you want to surveil Carter Page. The report that the feds had wiretapped Cohen’s phones set off a flood of speculation that they must really have some serious goods on him, because they wouldn’t get approval for a wiretap if they didn’t.
Now that we know it was nothing more than a pen register, all that speculation is revealed as baseless, but it drove an entire 24-hour news cycle before we found out it was hogwash.
Question: Did the NBC reporters who falsely reported the wiretap simply not know the distinction between a wiretap and a pen register? Or did they exaggerate on purpose in order to run a more sensational and anti-Trump story? And did no one at NBC think to question it before the U.S. officials themselves said it wasn’t true?
Then again, since we don’t know the source for the original story, maybe NBC was relying on an anonymous source who misled them. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always criticized the use of anonymous sources by the media. If they tell you something that turns out to be false, you can’t go back and lay it on the source because no one knows who it is. When the media use anonymous sources, they’re saying to the rest of us, “Just trust us. This source is legit.”
I don’t think so. And this is the latest example as to why.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!