I don’t know anything more about the Washington Post‘s latest vicious attack against President Donald J. Trump, than the rest of us. But I have concerns about how much credence this latest “blockbuster” WaPo hit piece deserves because it is based entirely upon allegations from unnamed sources.
As my colleague Andrea Ruth, who broke the story on RedState, also reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied reports that President Trump divulged classified national intelligence when he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week. In addition another RedState colleague reports that White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Trump did not share any sources with Russian diplomats. So we have the Wapo’s report based entirely on anonymous sources challenged by two cabinet members.
Also keep in mind that the day after President Trump fired James Comey four WaPo reporters collaborated on another Trump hatchet job about the former FBI director’s dismissal relying upon an “unprecedented 30 unnamed sources.” That forced The Washington Post’s media critic, Margaret Sullivan, to defend the use the 30 unnamed sources despite claiming she is no fan of unnamed sources because of the lack of accountability and scrutiny they provide. Nevertheless, Sullivan defended the use of them in the Post’s current White House coverage:
There is no way to get at the story through talking to the White House press secretary or listening to the spin that is offered by officials who are willing to go on the record.
That’s how the Wapo justifies its excessive use of sources unwilling to stand behind what they say.
National Public Radio seems more concerned about such sources. The NPR Ethics Handbook states:
Unidentified sources should rarely be heard at all and should never be heard attacking or praising others in our reports (with the possible rare exceptions of whistle blowers and individuals making allegations of sexual assault; see the longer discussion of anonymous sources in the section on transparency). While we recognize that some valuable information can only be obtained off the record, it is unfair to air a source’s opinion on a subject of coverage when the source’s identity and motives are shielded from scrutiny.
So as we try to make sense of today’s WaPo attempt to take down President Trump, please consider the sources.