I hate to waste any more time on the Hunter Biden “scandal” cooked up by Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and the Kremlin, but it’s a soggy Monday and not much else is going on.
Sunday was a different story, as “60 Minutes” aired President Trump’s disastrous self-pity party with Lesley Stahl and Nora O’Donnell’s serious, insightful and gloriously “normal” chats with former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris.
Vice President Mike Pence also sat down with Stahl, but as usual, what little he said amounted to “President Trump is great. All is well. If all is not well, it’s not the president’s fault.”
“60 Minutes” dominated the Sunday news cycle, but the most informative of the day came in a piece by Ben Smith, media columnist for The New York Times. The headline:
Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn’t Buy It.
In the column, which I urge you to read here, Smith answers the question I asked to Trumpers who called me a “fake news hack,” etc. for calling this phony story actual fake news: Rupert Murdoch owns Fox “News,” the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. If the Hunter Biden story was a blockbuster, why would Murdoch choose to run it in a smarmy tabloid as opposed to the top cable TV “news” network or a revered newspaper like the Journal?
Millions of conservatives view the Journal as divine scripture delivered daily, but the newspaper is also widely trusted by liberals. The Journal’s editorial pages often read like ravings mailed from a psych ward, but the paper’s news side is straight as an arrow and, like “60 Minutes,” doesn’t publish anything its reporters and editors can’t verify.
I read the Journal almost daily. I trust its news side to get it right, which is why Team Trump desperately wanted its “October Surprise” to appear in one of the world’s top-five newspapers.
Smith’s column reveals that the story was initially pitched to the Journal, and two staff reporters were put on it. The more they reported, the less confident they became with the veracity of its sources, the accuracy of its details and the fairness of its accusations and opportunistic timing.
Team Trump expected the “story” to run in the Oct. 19 edition of the Journal. When it didn’t, Rudy and others got nervous and pushed it to other outlets. The rest is what passes for history these days. Smith reports that the Journal published a short story that said a key source failed to prove that Joe Biden abused his power to benefit his son or that he profited from Hunter’s businesses.
“Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden,” The Journal reported Thursday after the final presidential “debate,” at which Trump made veiled references to a story most of America never read, because the Journal wouldn’t publish it.
Why? Because The Wall Street Journal is The Wall Street Journal. Lesley Stahl said it all when Trump grumbled about most of mainstream media’s dismissal of the scandal his henchmen tried to create.
“This is ‘60 Minutes,’” Stahl said. “We can’t put on things we can’t verify.”
And that’s the real reason Trump walked out of the interview.