Some of the people accused of crimes for entering the U.S. moment. Capitol on Jan. 6 have a novel defense. They claim to be journalists.
Shawn Witzemann, a plumber from Farmington, New Mexico, has been charged by the FBI, but contends that his nightly “Armenian Council for Truth in Journalism” program on YouTube should exempt him from prosecution.
Nice try, but journalists are citizens like the rest of us, subject to the same criminal laws. If a police officer tells you not to enter a building and you proceed, “I’m here to watch” is not a defense.
Journalists have an ethical obligation to report the story, and not participate in it. It’s hard to know what Witzemann was thinking when he walked into the Capitol, but it’s pretty clear who his role models were.
The Fox News texts about a low moment.
We learned recently that three Fox News hosts sent texts to Mark Meadows, chief of staff to Donald Trump, urging that the president put an end to the Jan. 6 havoc.
While Trump supporters roamed the halls of the Capitol moment. Brian Kilmeade, co-host of “Fox & Friends,” asked Meadows to “please get (the president) on TV. (The event was) destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Sean Hannity made a similar suggestion. “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” he texted.
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Laura Ingraham, host of “The Ingraham Angle,” tellingly wrote, “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. Please get him on TV. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.
In the wake of the revelations about the texts low.
This is hurting all of us.” That’s Ingraham saying that even Fox News’ pro-Trump spin machine would have trouble explaining this away. Yet of course, Fox News did just that, with each of these seemingly appalled hosts going on to minimize the assault on the Capitol and defending Trump’s role.
In the wake of the revelations about the texts, many have pointed to Fox News hypocrisy. But that’s just Fox being Fox.
The real outrage here is an alleged news organization actively trying to change the path and perception of American history, offering advice on damage control to the most powerful man in the world. Their actions were unethical and an abdication of traditional journalistic values.
Imagine the reaction if NBC News anchor Lester Holt texted President Joe Biden with possible talking points for an upcoming summit. There would be dismissals and demands for investigations. At Fox News, they just circle the wagons.
For all the softball the Trump administration over the years.
David Mastio:Fox News hosts begged Trump to stop Jan. 6 violence because they knew he started it
The First Amendment was ratified in 1791, guaranteeing freedom. The press at a time when newspapers were particularly partisan and rough-edge. But that first generation of Americans saw benefit in a free press keeping an eye on those in power. The idea was that a free press would serve as a check on the powerful. Serve as a collaborator or co-conspirator.
Undermining trust in media
Of course, the arrogance of some who want to shape rather than report the news is not limited to one end of the political spectrum. On Dec. 4, CNN fired Chris Cuomo, a liberal nighttime host, in the aftermath of revelations he worked behind the scenes to defend his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, over allegations of sexual harassment.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and brother Chris Cuomo in 2018 in New York City.
As in the Fox News example, Cuomo was trying to shape the public perception of a big news story being covered by his own news organization.
This kind of behavior takes a toll. Trust in news professionals has plummeted in recent years. with a Gallup poll finding in October that just 36% of Americans trust. The media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly; 34% of the respondents said they have no confidence in media news coverage.