Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

The Washington Post (3/1/17) plays down its scoop.

WaPo Spins Its Scoop to Minimize Damage to Sessions

The Washington Post, which broke the Jeff Sessions/Russian ambassador story (3/1/17), is framing it to minimize political damage to the attorney general. Here’s the headline:

Sessions Met With Russian Envoy Twice Last Year, Encounters He Later Did Not Disclose

But the problem is not that Sessions “did not disclose” his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; it’s that he lied about them under oath.

As the Post‘s story notes in its sixth paragraph, when asked during his confirmation hearings about contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, he replied, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

“I did not have communications with the Russians”—an unqualified denial of the kind of meetings he now acknowledges that he had.

Given the impact of media perception on DC reality, if the Post had accurately headlined its story “Sessions Lied Under Oath About Meeting With Russians,” he might be in far more  political (not to mention legal) jeopardy—but that kind of forthrightness was reserved for partisan outlets like Think Progress (3/2/17), whose story was headed “Sessions Lied to Congress About His Contacts With Russia During the Trump Campaign.”

Likewise, the Post piece reports in the third paragraph that Sessions “has so far resisted calls to recuse himself” from a hypothetical investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. In the 22nd paragraph, though, we learn that calls have gone far beyond recusal: “Several Democratic members of the House on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post”—including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

It’s a mistake to think that the era of online news has eroded the power of the traditional media establishment. The fact is that with monthly visitors surpassing 80 million, and 90,000 websites linking to it,‘s reach far exceeds what the print-only Post ever dreamed of.  The spin the outlet that breaks a story puts on that story can be replicated across social media with the speed of a mouse click. And in this case, the spin seems designed to limit the threat to Sessions’ job—let alone the threat of prosecution for perjury.

© 2021 Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
Jim Naureckas

Jim Naureckas

Jim Naureckas is editor of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He is the co-author of "Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error." He was an investigative reporter for In These Times and managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

As Senators Try to Expand War Crimes Jurisdiction, Critics Ask if US War Criminals Count

"I've got names and addresses of American war criminals if any senators are interested," quipped veteran journalist Nick Turse.

Brett Wilkins ·

Climate Campaigners Demand Oxford, Cambridge Stop Taking Fossil Fuel Money

"This funding undermines climate justice, fueling the continued disproportionate harms of the fossil fuel industry on marginalized communities worldwide."

Julia Conley ·

Palestine Defenders Hail Rep. Tlaib's 'Historic' Nakba Resolution

"The time has come for the United States to correct an ongoing historical mistake it committed by recognizing the Palestinian Nakba, and to pressure Israel to respect American values that call for justice, equality, and freedom for all."

Brett Wilkins ·

Earth's Atmospheric CO2 Hasn't Been This High In Millions of Years

"Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race."

Kenny Stancil ·

'A Shameful Distinction': US Ranked World's Biggest Perpetrator of Financial Secrecy

"That isn't a prize the U.S. wants to claim for itself," said one critic.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo