This got awkward.
The worst-kept secret in Washington took another twist — and the reputation of professional journalism took another hit — on Sunday when a Fox News contributor dared to utter the name of the suspected “whistleblower” at the heart of the impeachment effort against President Donald Trump.
And the most newsworthy part of the moment was the effort by a clearly discomfited “MediaBuzz” host Howard Kurtz to downplay the whole thing.
Even at Fox News, about the only major news organization that is not part of the impeachment mob pursuing the president, the identity of the suspected whistleblower is supposed to be a secret.
And isn’t keeping secrets what American journalism is all about?
As just about anyone paying attention knows by now, the man behind the whistleblower complaint is thought to be Eric Ciaramella, a 33-year-old CIA analyst and registered Democrat who’d been assigned to the National Security Council by former CIA Director (and now-ardent Trump foe) John Brennan.
Ciaramella’s name has never been officially confirmed, however, so the nation’s news outlets have engaged in a determined effort to ensure that the man apparently behind the Democrats’ efforts to undo the results of the 2016 election must remain “he-who-shall-not-be-named” as far as the American public is concerned.
Last week, according to CNN Business, Fox hosts were emailed a reminder that Ciaramella’s name was not to be used because the network had not “independently confirmed [the] name or identification of the anonymous whistleblower.”
On Sunday’s “MediaBuzz,” the Fox News show devoted to the intersection of politics and the media, Fox contributor and senior editor at The Federalist Mollie Hemingway went ahead and identified Ciaramella anyway, and the discomfort on the set was obvious.
Check it out here (The video is not directly available from Fox News, which has apparently disappeared the whole incident down the memory hole):
“The New York Times did all but reveal his name in September,” Hemingway said. “And RealClearInvestigations has identified a man named Eric Ciaramella as the whistleblower, so it’s already out there.
“We could be talking about this reporting, and talking about whether that’s accurate reporting or not. So I’m still a little bit confused about why we’re pretending that hasn’t already happened.”
Philippe Reines, a former Hillary Clinton strategist and MediaBuzz regular, practically blanched at the name being spoken out loud.
“That might be the first time that the name has been mentioned on Fox News,” he said.
Kurtz, the host, and normally a reliable voice of sanity in the D.C. Wonderland, tried to paper over the moment. But he didn’t exactly cover himself with glory.
“I just want to clarify that I don’t know that that’s the person,” Kurtz said.
Directly addressing the camera, he made the point as crystal clear as a hostage video:
“I don’t know whether this is actually the person or not,” he said.
“And I don’t want to speculate about that. But there have been a few conservative outlets and commentators that have floated that name.”
There have been more than a few, and they’ve been high profile enough to make the name newsworthy by itself.
Donald Trump Jr. has passed the name along in the form of a Breitbart News story.
Because of course he did!!!
Alleged ‘Whistleblower’ Eric Ciaramella Worked Closely with Anti-Trump Dossier Hoaxer https://t.co/v5kDe0X62u
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 6, 2019
Conservative commentator Mark Levin has used the name on the air and on his website.
The Western Journal, of course, has identified Ciaramella as the suspected whistleblower as well, after investigative journalist Paul Sperry initially broke the story on RealClearInvestigations.
In short, Hemingway was stating a fact on Sunday. The suspected identity of the man who could bring down an American president is already in the air in the nation’s capital and beyond.
It could be up for debate, it could be that the widely held suspicions aren’t accurate.
But it’s a public question that the mainstream media are doing worse than ignoring — they’re covering it up.
And it’s being noticed.
— Alm Adventures 🇺🇸 (@almsadventures) November 10, 2019
Love you Mollie! Way to go! You’re there only one with guts to say what we all know!👏👏👏👏
— dalmatinka (@sonjagrgurovic) November 10, 2019
Way to go @MZHemingway !! 👏👏
Everyone else with her was like… pic.twitter.com/KNJoeX5hyg
— Austere American Cubana (@CubanaAmerican) November 10, 2019
FoxNews anchor doesn’t want to speculate on that….BUT IT’S THE WORST KEPT SECRET TODAY!!
“Eric Ciaramella” Remember it.
— gwo (@gwo12167916) November 10, 2019
There was a time not so long ago that the American media might have been interested in pursuing the truth about a person who accused the president of wrongdoing.
But what the media is doing now with the name of the alleged whistleblower is not why the Founding Fathers guaranteed the freedom of the press in the First Amendment.
And keeping secrets is not what American journalism is supposed to be about.
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