Accuracy in Media

The mainstream media hyped a report that the Russian government planned to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections on the side of President Donald Trump last week. But the media later corrected its initial reporting when other national intelligence sources told them that the statement was incorrect and was based on conjecture.

Yet national intelligence officials told NBC News that they were concerned that lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle misinterpreted and weaponized the initial and erroneous analysis. The news outlet said that officials are “concerned” that their assessment of Russian interference was “distorted and weaponized for political gain” in the current political environment.

The controversy first began when intelligence official Shelby Pierson gave a briefing to lawmakers. During the briefing, Pierson “overstated” her assessment that Russia was going to help re-elect Trump in 2020. CNN cited a source who said that Pierson omitted “important nuance” in her assessment to Democratic Party lawmakers in the briefing.

Intelligence officials did not place all the blame on Pierson, but the lawmakers who attended the briefing (though not by name). Instead, officials told NBC News that the overstatement was “fueled…by a misinterpretation by some Democratic lawmakers.” They affirmed the Pierson did not tell lawmakers that Russia was working to re-elect Trump and that the issue required nuance. Officials also said that current intelligence does not show that Russians are “actively taking steps to help Trump now” unlike the 2016 election.

It was hypocritical for intelligence officials to go to the media and play victim, without criticizing a critical mistake made by one of its own, Shelby Pierson. Though the intelligence community has clarified Pierson’s comment, it chose to blame lawmakers for misinterpreting her comment without admitting Pierson’s contribution to said misinterpretation.

The intelligence community should move on from Pierson’s mistake since it has corrected her mistake in the press, and refrain from blaming lawmakers. The blame lies on the intelligence community for failing to accurately tell lawmakers about Russian interference in 2020.

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