The New York Times and Associated Press this week quietly issued major retractions in stories concerning alleged Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
For months, Democrats have tried to connect President Donald Trump's presidential campaign to Russia's alleged interference in last year's election. The most prominent narrative has accused Trump of "collusion" with the Russians, although no concrete evidence has proved the claims correct.
One of the other prominent claims, one touted by many Democrats, has been to say all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russia attempted to interfere in the election.
Last Sunday, the Times ran a report titled, "Trump’s Deflections and Denials on Russia Frustrate Even His Allies," and claimed that "all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community" had confirmed Russia orchestrated cyberattacks to interfere in the election.
The Associated Press made similar claims in stories on April 6, June 2, June 26 and June 29.
Losing 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even made the claim during a debate last October and fact-checking website PolitiFact ruled Clinton's claim to be completely true.
However, as fate would have it, not all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies made that claim nor had they confirmed it. In fact, only four agencies did: the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the office of the director of national intelligence.
That fact forced the Times and the AP to issue retractions and corrections.
The Times wrote in a correct on Thursday: "A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential electionThe assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community."
While the AP wrote in a similar correction on Friday: "In stories published April 6, June 2, June 26 and June 29, The Associated Press reported that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump. That assessment was based on information collected by three agencies - the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency - and published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents all U.S. intelligence agencies. Not all 17 intelligence agencies were involved in reaching the assessment."
The timing of both corrections is odd, since the facts of the claim have not changed since it began circulating in October of 2016, just before the presidential election, and the figure was clearly debunked as early as May of this year. Hillary Clinton used the large number to ridicule Trump on the campaign trail, and has reiterated the claim in recent months, along with other Democrats and members of the press.
The October DNI report did not specify which agencies conducted the assessment on Russian meddling, but of the 17 agencies it’s clear which ones would have purview — the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency. Indeed, further clarification from the DNI in 2017 made it clear these were the only three agencies involved. None of the other agencies overseen by the DNI publicly disagreed with the finding Russia tried to interfere, but that is to be expected, since none of them conducted a review.
Framing the consensus as the result of 17 separate analyses was just as obviously wrong in October as now in June. It’s always been clear that intel agencies run by the Coast Guard or the Department of Energy would not be expected to investigate and weigh in on an election hacking attempt.
The retractions come as anti-mainstream media rhetoric is at an all-time high.
Three CNN employees resigned this week after an investigative journalist published a story connecting a Trump transition team member to a Russian investment bank. The story hinged on one anonymous source and proved to be false.
A recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll even found that the media's approval is less than Trump's, 36 percent to 40 percent.
Trump also hit CNN on Twitter Saturday calling the organization "garbage journalism."
"I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It's about time!" Trump wrote.