If ever you wanted to understand just how quickly the corporate media in the United States can be distracted from their duty as a watchdog and fall prey to absolute and utter bullshit, this was the week to be watching.
On Tuesday, for example, the New York Times (and many other outlets) reported that “President-elect Donald Trump’s charity has admitted that it violated IRS regulations barring it from using its money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.” In other words, Trump’s “foundation,” as we already knew, used other people’s money under a tax-exempt structure to pay for things that benefited…Donald Trump. They used the money to settle lawsuits against…Donald Trump. They used the foundation money to buy a gigantic portrait of…Donald Trump.
On the same day, Trump had a meeting with the New York Times, in which he made clear he felt he was above the law when it comes to his business interests and the needs of the nation and, certainly, above any ethical obligations to the people of the United States. This, even though he owes money to banks in China and has ties with Russian financiers, and although he has already used the office of the presidency—even before being sworn in—to enrich himself. Conflict of interest laws don’t apply to him. Sound like Richard Nixon? It should.
Yet despite these revelations, and despite the fact that Trump’s admission on self-dealing in the work of his foundation leaves open the question of prosecution, the media found a different shiny thing to talk about: the statement by Donald Trump, followed up by his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, that he would not seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
So the New York Times publishes a story with the headline “Trump Drops Threat of New Investigations Into Clinton.” Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC spent considerable time discussing the fact that Trump has made this announcement. Chris Matthews of Hardball pontificated on whether they should pardon Clinton (pardoning her for what, I don’t know, since no crime has been found and no verdict pronounced). And the rest of the media focused on Clinton, Clinton, Clinton, the person who is not president, while the person who will be president and is engaging in pay-to-play in broad daylight, is openly self-dealing, and is stating that laws do not apply to him gets a pass.
See how easy it is to fool the U.S. media? Very, very easy. As Masha Gessen wrote, institutions will not save you, and the U.S. media sure doesn’t seem like it will.