Media Must Set Higher Standard for Reporting Career-Ending Accusations


If the events around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford are any indication, the American news consumer — simply looking for facts presented in a nonpartisan manner — appears to be permanently screwed.

The public is presented with information by media that invariably takes a side based on the three furthest things from the pillars of sound journalism: sensationalism, dishonesty and an ideological tilt while being hopelessly pious in the process.

The examples of misleading tales are apparent for all to see, mostly on the anti-Kavanaugh side.

For example, MSNBC goes heavy with a story affirming the allegations from Ford’s classmate based on a Facebook post. The classmate later admitted to not even knowing Ford or hearing a story firsthand. The national news outlet covered this without, apparently, any reasonable vetting.

“I did not know her personally but I remember her. This incident did happen,” Ford schoolmate Christina King Miranda wrote. “Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However, Christine’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.”

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This was enough for MSNBC and other outlets to run with the story.

Third-party tale? She didn’t know Ford directly? Screw it. Let’s go with it anyway.

It’s gossip treated as gospel.

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MSNBC would later in a subsequent tweet note that King Miranda had removed the post without deleting the initial tweet, which was retweeted nearly 900 times.

The follow-up tweet was retweeted less than 100 times, or nine times fewer, for those keeping score at home.

“That it happened or not, I have no idea,” King Miranda told NPR on Friday. “I can’t say that it did or didn’t.”

“I had no idea that I would now have to go to the specifics and defend it before 50 cable channels and have my face spread all over MSNBC news and Twitter,” she later added.

Meanwhile, CNN anchor Jim Scuitto tweets out an incomplete claim about how and where Ford could potentially be interviewed, publicly or privately or in Washington, D.C., or California, where she lives. The tweet’s omission is egregious enough that committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley‘s, R-Iowa, office is forced to respond to.

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“The offer to #ChristinaBlaseyFord is blunt: testify in public six days from now while under death threats or your allegation will be ignored in the confirmation of a SCOTUS nominee. That is quite a choice,” Scuitto wrote in a tweet that was retweeted more than 7,600 times and liked 17,000 times.

“This is not close to the offer to #ChristinaBlaseyFord,” replied Grassley’s office to Scuitto, a former Obama State Department official. “Chairman Grassley offered an open or closed hearing, reached out to discuss timing that would work for Dr. Ford, has even offered to send staff to California. This deserves a correction.”

More than 20 hours later, Sciutto sends out a second tweet clarifying his original tweet. That is retweeted just 134 times and liked just 320 times.

“Sen @ChuckGrassley added the option of private testimony for Ford yesterday. New today, the senator has offered to fly staff to California to interview her there. The Monday timeline remains the same,” Scuitto wrote the following day.

Washington Post bureau chief Philip Rucker also was lambasted for a story involving a photo showing a ritual that Kavanaugh’s fraternity at Yale participated in back in 1985 involving a flag woven together by women’s underwear.

One small problem: The photo doesn’t have Kavanaugh in it.

Rucker went on to justify the story, stating that while Kavanaugh isn’t seen in said photo, it exemplified the culture of his fraternity.

If anyone has seen any fraternity movie ranging from “Animal House” to “Revenge of the Nerds” to “Old School” or actually participated in a frat, it’s abundantly clear these kinds of actions aren’t exactly an anomaly. So how this is something that is remotely considered news is beyond comprehension.

On the pro-Kavanaugh side, the Drudge Report was slammed Monday for linking to a false news story that originated via Grabien News about Ford, who works as a college professor.

The story focused on the website,, which included reviews on another professor named Christine Ford.

“Christine Ford is the worst educator I have experienced,” one unnamed former student wrote on the website.

“Something’s wrong with her,” wrote another anonymous student about another professor with the same name.

Given Drudge’s enormous popularity, particularly among conservatives, the damage was already done well before Drudge deleted the story.

Grabien, for its part, apologized for the error while also removing the story.

In the end, Republicans — and precedent — will be the big losers here.

If Grassley goes ahead and puts Kavanaugh up for a vote on Monday, many in media will echo the Democratic claim that the process was rushed without Ford being heard — despite Ford’s refusal to testify until the FBI investigates the allegation.

As for Kavanaugh, he gets stuck with a permanent asterisk for life despite staunchly denying the claim and offering more testimony publicly.

In the event the GOP somehow buckled and delayed the vote further to the point Kavanaugh decided to withdraw, the base would never forgive the party.

The precedent this sets should be alarming to anyone regardless of political party.

The “Me Too” movement — which is completely important and legitimate — appears to many to have been weaponized for political gain.

If just one more woman comes forward and claims she was treated inappropriately by Kavanaugh decades ago, imagine where the bar is set to move forward.

The next accuser doesn’t need to specify a date, time, place or any evidence in making an accusation.

We were told by Sen. Mazie Keiko Hirono, D-Hawaii, that all women must be believed in these situations because of their gender. Period.

But there needs to be something more substantial than that, or many accomplished careers, even lives, will be unfairly ruined, if that’s the sole standard.

More than a few bad apples in media have handled this story about as poorly as they could. Trust in media is already at a historic low.

Putting the toothpaste back in the tube will be impossible at this point. To half the country, traditional political media is irreparable. And those people ain’t coming back even when the 45th president is no longer in office.

Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill and host of “What America’s Thinking.”

A version of this Op-Ed previously appeared on The Hill and has been republished with author permission.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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