CNN, along with other media, pride themselves on testing statements made by presidential candidates and others for their truthfulness or falsity.
But who is testing the truthfulness or falsity of statements made by CNN and other media?
A case in point. CNN repeatedly claimed and continues to claim through its reporters and talking heads — that during the impeachment trial I had told senators, in the words of Paul Begala, that presidents are "immune from every criminal act, so long as they could plausibly claim they did it to boost their re-election effort."
Some talking heads went so far as to say that I told the senate that a president could shoot his opponent, or tamper with voting machines, as long as he believed his re-election was in the public interest. Joe Lockhart compared me to Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini and said my argument would lead to genocide.
A simple truth-check, if CNN had bothered to conduct one, would have shown that I said exactly the opposite of what CNN said I had said: I told the senators — both in my speech and in answers to questions — that if a president did anything that was "in some way illegal" or "corruptly motivated" or that involved "personal pecuniary." benefit, he could be impeached, even if his motive was to help his re-election, which he believed was in the public interest. My point was that if a president did something entirely lawful that was motivated in part by helping his
re-election, that mixed motive would not turn a legal act into an impeachable offense.
CNN turned my statement on its head, wrenched a few words out of context while omitting other crucial words, and lied to its viewers. It was as if I had said, "Now let me tell you what I don’t believe: I don’t believe that a president can commit any crime as long as he thinks it will help his re-election. I don’t believe that for a moment."
If CNN then deliberately omitted the first 13 words and the last seven words and just showed me saying that "a president can commit any crime as long as he thinks it will help his re-election," no one would say they were telling the truth.
Nor was this an inadvertent lie. I was reliably advised that the brass at CNN made a deliberate, calculated decision to edit the video by omitting what I said before and after the words they quoted, for the explicit purpose of misleading their viewers.
This is the functional equivalent of doctoring the recording.
They knew exactly what they were doing and they did it with a corrupt motive and malice afterthought. I challenge them to deny it. They won’t, because they know I can prove it.
What then can be done to guard the guardians? To truth check the truth checkers?
They won’t do it themselves. To the contrary, CNN does not tolerate criticism or correction on its own network. When I told the truth about CNN’s lies on several CNN programs, its top executive sent out an order banning me from its airwaves.
I had accepted an invitation to appear on the "Smerconish" show. The car was arranged.
The topics selected. I was supposed to be at the top of the show. Then the order came down from on high: "Cancel Dershowitz, because he criticized our coverage of what he said."
At first CNN denied I was cancelled for my criticism, claiming it was just a change in programming, but eventually several people at the network confided the truth to me: you can’t criticize CNN and expect to be on that network.
So much for the market-place of ideas on CNN. So much for freedom of speech. So much for self-criticism or admitting their mistakes. Instead we have lies, cover-ups, and lies about the cover-ups.
The public, including CNN viewers, are not generally aware of the lack of journalistic standards — and the absence of any concern for truth — at CNN. For CNN, the ends justify the means.
Their ends are getting rid of President Trump at all costs and enhancing their bottom line.
The two are related because they attract more viewers by distorting the truth about current events relating to the Trump impeachment. They know that if they present nuanced, calibrated information rather than black and white one-sided propaganda, many of their viewers will turn to MSNBC, which doesn’t even pretend to present all sides of partisan issues.
If it requires lying to increase or maintain viewership and ad revenue, so be it.
They don’t have to worry. No one is checking them. And if a guest does check and complain, take him off the air.
I could sue CNN for defamation, as some have urged me to do; they maliciously and intentionally lied about what I said for the explicit purpose of defaming me and misleading their viewers. Even though I’m a public figure, a deliberate lie told with malice, is not protected by the first amendment.
I have some access to the marketplace of ideas, through my writing, radio and TV appearances (though not on CNN).
But what about those whom the media defames and who do not have such access?
Where do they go to get their reputations back?
Would a successful law suit change the dynamic and produce more truthful reporting?
So a word of caution to CNN viewers. Know what you are watching: a collection of talking heads, paid to tell CNN’s version of their truth, without anyone checking whether they have crossed the line into half-truths and full-out lies. You have to do your own truth checking. Be skeptical.
Do not believe anything you hear, just because you heard it on CNN or any other network. The criteria for a talking head stating — or creating — a "fact" on CNN is about as daunting as it is for the guy at the local bar who tells you what he heard in the bathroom. The problem is that the guy at the bar may have heard it on CNN.
So it’s time for CNN to retract the lie it broadcast about what I told the senate and to apologize to its viewers for misleading them.
It’s been more than a month and they persist in repeating their mendacious account.
So don’t hold your breath.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "Guilt by Accusation" and "The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump." Read more reports from Alan M. Dershowitz – Click Here Now.
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