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Media Outlets Became A Target After Mueller Probe Results Surfaced


When the results of the Mueller investigation surfaced on Sunday afternoon, there was swift reaction. One group that immediately became a target, the media. And the critics of the media have united some unlikely figures.

Here's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Sean Hannity's tweet on Sunday read like some sort of long-lost, incoherent telegram - all in capital letters, no punctuation. MSNBC conspiracy network - liars, fake news CNN - liars, NY Times, WaPo - liars. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders echoed him yesterday on NBC's "Today Show."


SARAH SANDERS: Democrats and the liberal media owe the president and they owe the American people an apology. They wasted two years...

FOLKENFLIK: Their talking points found support not just in the warm embrace of Fox News but among some journalists on the left like Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi and The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald argues the press reflexively ratchets up pressure against Russia, and he says the media's failings on the question of collusion were worse than its coverage of claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

GLENN GREENWALD: The media spent essentially three years engaging millions of Americans and convincing them to believe something that an investigation ultimately concluded was false from the start.

FOLKENFLIK: Greenwald points to cable news, which he says rewards hyperbole. Take former CIA Director John Brennan, a paid commentator for NBC News.


JOHN BRENNAN: And I did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and is nothing short of treasonous. I didn't mean that he committed treason.

FOLKENFLIK: Here was Brennan last summer, questioned about his rhetoric on Trump by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.


RACHEL MADDOW: So you didn't mean that he committed treason now?

BRENNAN: I said it's nothing short of treasonous. That was the term that I used, yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: National security analyst Malcolm Nance appeared on MSNBC just this past weekend.


MALCOLM NANCE: Everyone repeat after me - single most serious scandal in the history of the United States - was the president of the United States an agent of an enemy of the United States? Look. This - it could technically eclipses Benedict Arnold, who at least did it for money.

FOLKENFLIK: MSNBC declined to comment. Beyond cable, Glenn Greenwald points to exclusive stories that have never been validated. The Guardian reported that Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort secretly met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. No one's been able to confirm that one - same with McClatchy's apparent scoop that there's evidence former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen popped up in Prague, presumably to meet with Russians.

Again, Glenn Greenwald.

GREENWALD: If there's no reckoning here, if there are no jobs lost, if there is no apologies made, then I think the erosion of the media will only continue to accelerate. And I'll be one of the people cheering it because I think it'll be well-deserved.

FOLKENFLIK: Bill Grueskin is a former top editor at The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. He says the critique is largely misplaced.

BILL GRUESKIN: Journalists operate in a very different framework from prosecutors. And I think it's unfortunate that those two are being confused in this case.

FOLKENFLIK: Grueskin argues many stories give the public rich insight into the actions and past activities of the president, regardless of whether those actions prove criminal.

GRUESKIN: Some of the critics seem to believe that Barr's interpretation of the Mueller - the report, which indicates that they didn't feel they could prove these cases beyond a reasonable doubt, ought to be the same criteria by which you would judge what journalists do.

FOLKENFLIK: Reporters drew some plaudits at the U.S. Justice Department. Attorney General Barr cited reporting that helped to inspire Mueller's inquiry into questions of obstruction of justice by Trump. The details of Mueller's findings remain a mystery. But the press's critics aren't waiting, including those at the White House, at Fox and some journalists well to the left.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.


David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.