No one forced mainstream media outlets and cable news channels to go all in on Jussie Smollett’s fantastical tale of being mugged in subzero temperatures at two o’clock in the morning by two mysterious MAGA-hat-wearing perpetrators in January 2019.
“The Racist, Homophobic Attack on Jussie Smollett Is America’s Endgame” cried GQ in one of several instances of the mainstream press abandoning all journalistic ethics (again) or skepticism in favor of political confirmation bias. Once again they handed a giant bat to Donald Trump and others on the right who were accused of being second-hand enablers of the Smollett attack — and now, rightly, they’re being smashed for it.
Politicians such as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris all tweeted out their support of Smollett, some going as far as calling it a “modern-day lynching”. It was egregious accusatory behavior, based on zero evidence. But the CNN media hall monitors have found the “real” problem with the Jussie Smollett case: the people who noticed. Since the verdict, media montages have rocketed around Twitter, featuring cable news and infotainment hosts’ absolute disgust at the Smollett “attack.”
The biggest problem with the Jussie Smollett debacle is not that the media jumped headfirst into believing a tale that depicts Donald Trump and his supporters as red-hatted evil brownshirts — as with the case of Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann. It’s that they have failed to take responsibility or apologize for peddling false stories since. Want a good reason for why the credibility ratings of the American media are somewhere down around the bottom of the Mariana Trench? Silence on the Smollett hoax verdict is a perfect one.
Not a single writer, or pundit, or CNN anchor, or MSNBC host, who pushed how grotesque this “attack” was will stare down the camera during one of their shows, and say “I was wrong — we need to be better.” They have had ample opportunity to do so. CNN’s Brian Stelter who once said both on air and on Twitter that no one was there, and “we may never know the truth of what happened that night” could have used his widely read (at least among his media cronies) newsletter to admonish his colleagues for abandoning journalistic ethics. But he did not.
Instead his toadie, Oliver Darcy, launched into an accusatory tirade against “bad-faith actors on the right” and Sean Hannity, for simply taking notice of their own screw-up. Darcy then fleshed this out more in a CNN piece: “How Sean Hannity and right-wing media personalities are using the Smollett verdict to attack the media.” If Oliver Darcy and his pals don’t want his worst nemesis pointing out their massive failure of journalistic curiosity, then perhaps they should stop proving their critics right.
The people who were skeptical all along of Smollett’s lies are not at fault. Oliver Darcy is. So is Robin Roberts, who platformed Smollett and comforted him instead of questioning him. Every Twitter pundit and journalist who leapt into his corner without an ounce of doubt is at fault. Blame these people for making the same mistakes, and never apologizing to their readers and their audiences afterwards.