Accuracy in Media

CNN had nine key takeaways from Attorney General William Barr’s appearance Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. HuffPost had eight, ABC News seven, the Washington Post six and the Associated Press five.

But they bore a substantial resemblance to one another in that they all attempted to make it seem as if Barr had somehow misled Americans about what was in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the two-year investigation into whether President Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election.

“Mueller wanted the executive summaries from his report publicly released immediately after he submitted his report in March,” wrote Chad Day of the Associated Press in “Key Takeaways from Barr’s testimony and Mueller’s letter.”

“But Barr went his own way.”

Barr “tries to (re)explain what he was doing with four-page letter,” read the section head on one of the items listed by CNN’s Chris Cillizza in “9 key takeaways from William Barr’s testimony on the Mueller report.”

Cillizza wrote: “Now that we know that Mueller took issue with the way that Barr described the report in his summary letter on March 24, the AG sought to reclassify what he meant to do with the letter,” Cillizza wrote. Mueller did not claim to have taken issue with Barr’s letter; Barr said Mueller told him repeatedly it was neither inaccurate nor incomplete.

In the Washington Post’s “6 takeaways from William Barr’s tense hearing,” Aaron Blake misled readers under his third point – “His allegedly misleading previous testimony.” Blake writes that “In addition to rebuking Barr, Mueller’s letter called into question his past testimony. Barr testified before the House last month – after receiving the letter [from Mueller arguing that his findings were presented by Barr in a way that did not “fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office’s work and conclusions”] – and suggested he wasn’t familiar with how the Mueller team perceived his actions.”

Blake writes: “When asked whether he knew what was behind reports that members of the Mueller team were unhappy with his summary of the special prosecutor’s report, Barr said, ‘No, I don’t.’”

Barr clearly was saying he did not know which elements of the letter Mueller’s team took issue with, and he still doesn’t appear to have gotten a straight answer on this. Blake painted this as Barr not acknowledging he had received Mueller’s protest letter. “Barr explained Wednesday that he was narrowly answering the question,” Blake wrote.

ABC News implies Barr bullied Mueller on release of the letter and, later, the full report. “Barr had no interest in releasing summaries, despite Mueller’s requests,” wrote Lucien Bruggerman in “7 key takeaways from AG Barr’s testimony on the Mueller report.”

In a video with the ABC piece, a news anchor says Barr’s remarks Wednesday “seemed to flatly contradict what Barr told Congress last month when he was specifically asked about Mueller’s team raising these objections.”

HuffPost implied Barr was lying about not knowing about the complaint in its “8 Key Takeaways From William Barr’s Senate Hearing On The Mueller Report.” HuffPo’s Sanjana Karanth wrote: “Mueller’s letter reportedly said that Barr’s summary ‘did not capture the context, nature and substance of this office’s work and conclusions’ and does not specifically mention any concerns about the media.”

Barr explicitly said in his testimony that he knew Mueller had been concerned about how the media had portrayed his findings from the personal conversation the two had by phone after Barr received Mueller’s letter.

The media also tried to paint as fanciful or sycophantic Barr’s responses that investigations have begun of how a special counsel had come to be appointed to investigate these charges against President Trump when they were so manifestly proven false.

Wrote Blake at the Post: “Throughout his testimony, Barr repeated many of the same arguments and comments that landed him in hot water in the first place, and he again leaned into the idea that the Russia investigation might have been improperly launched – as Trump has argued.”

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