When the term “fake news” is applied to the establishment media, it is often assumed that it is a reference to blatant lies or grossly inaccurate claims that are published as truth.
Sometimes, however, the term is also applicable to media reports that, while “accurate,” per se, nonetheless frame the story in a deliberately misleading way or tell only a select part of the story and leave out inconvenient aspects that undermine a particular narrative.
One such misleading report from CNN on Wednesday falls into that second category of “fake news.”
It described a letter from the White House to former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s lawyers regarding his latest book as “threatening.”
What CNN failed to include in its report — as it would totally undermine the “threatening” narrative of Bolton’s book being blocked from publication — is that the letter was actually intended to assist Bolton in getting his book cleared for publication.
Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner highlighted the duplicitous nature of CNN’s report by comparing outrageous tweets from CNN figures Jake Tapper and Jim Sciutto hyping the “threatening” letter against the actual letter itself, which isn’t threatening at all.
I invite you all to read the letter and point to the “formal threat.” pic.twitter.com/mD82HuCAAw
— 𝚒’𝚖 𝚊 𝚑𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚜𝚊𝚛 (@BecketAdams) January 29, 2020
Tweets from the two CNN hosts focused solely on the first part of a two-paragraph letter from an official at the National Security Council to the law firm representing Bolton.
The first paragraph of the letter, dated Jan. 23, noted that a preliminary review of Bolton’s “manuscript appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” some of which was of the “TOP SECRET” variety that “‘reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security'” of the United States if released without proper authorization.
In other words, the exact sort of information that can’t be released for public consumption and the exact sort of material that the review process has been implemented to catch and prevent from being published.
The first paragraph concluded that “under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed … the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”
And that is pretty much where the CNN report left off, portraying the letter as a “formal threat” by the White House to Bolton that his upcoming book “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” could not be published as-is.
What CNN completely ignored in the report was the second paragraph of the letter, which made it abundantly clear that the White House was continuing the review process to remove classified information and was making every effort to ensure that the book could ultimately be published without potentially causing any harm to the national security of the country.
“We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” the letter read. “We will be in touch with you shortly with additional, more detailed guidance regarding next steps that should enable you to revise the manuscript and move forward as expeditiously as possible.”
In other words, the White House was attempting to help Bolton get his book ready for publication as quickly as possible, not threatening him that it couldn’t or wouldn’t be published at all — a rather inconvenient fact that runs counter to the “formal threat” narrative put forward by CNN and other media outlets.
As John Daniel Davidson, political editor for The Federalist, pointed out on Twitter, “This is literally fake news. Anyone who bothers to read the letter can see that there is no threat. It’s just notice of a standard manuscript review for any former official privy to classified info. In this case, the manuscript appears to contain classified info.”
This is literally fake news. Anyone who bothers to read the letter can see that there is no threat. It’s just notice of a standard manuscript review for any former official privy to classified info. In this case, the manuscript appears to contain classified info. https://t.co/sI768sGfQI
— John Daniel Davidson (@johnddavidson) January 29, 2020
Unlike how CNN framed its report, the letter was not a threat at all; it was actually an offer to help get the book published in a timely fashion and was issued before portions of the book were apparently leaked to the media and used to fuel Senate Democrats’ demands for Bolton’s testimony.
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