Journalist Matt Taibbi penned a scathing Substack post declaring liberal media knew exactly what they were doing by pushing the discredited Christopher Steele dossier and will “sell out anyone to avoid admitting” they were wrong as the document’s credibility falls apart.
Taibbi believes Igor Danchenko, who was indicted as a result of Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the Trump-Russia probe, is being “being set up to take the rap as the dirty Russian rat who hoodwinked poor civic-minded Christopher Steele, the FBI, and the entire American press corps into propping up the biggest hoax since the WMD affair.”
Danchenko, who is believed to be a sub-source for the dossier, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to making false statements about the source of information that he provided to Steele.
Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi wrote that the indictment suggests “Danchenko may have gotten his information about the hotel encounter not from Millian but from a Democratic Party operative with long-standing ties to Hillary Clinton,” noting Clinton ally Charles Dolan Jr. could be the unnamed operative.
Taibbi reminded readers of the debacle that occurred when the Uniited States failed to uncover weapons of mass destruction after invading Iraq during the George W. Bush administration, noting that war-hungry pundits blamed “a combination of faulty intelligence, over-confident officials in the George W. Bush White House” and journalist Judith Miller, while “everyone else who so forcefully screwed the pooch on that story” got a pass. Taibbi specifically mentioned New Yorker editor David Remnick, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait and Atlantic editor Jeffrey Golberg as examples of journalists who “emerged either unscathed, or draped in awards and promoted” following the WMD fiasco.
“Now, the Russiagate tale many of those same people hyped is falling apart, and the industry is again building battlements to protect careers from a cascade of humiliating revelations,” Taibbi wrote.
“This time, a combination of Danchenko, Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith, and perhaps a few organizations like McClatchy will be tossed out of the lifeboat. If you’re ever tempted to think there’s honor among thieves, check out this recent flurry of Russiagate finger-pointing,” Taibbi continued.
Taibbi then blasted NBC’s Chuck Todd as “one of the biggest traffickers in Russiagate hokum,” for his questions during an interview recently conducted with House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who had heaped credibility on the dossier.
Todd was one of multiple pundits to scold BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier in the first place.
“There are some news organizations that made the mistake of publishing this dossier without verifying it, and that’s a separate conversation for those news organizations,” Todd told Schiff.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler and a New York Times guest essay by former Columbia Journalism School Dean Bill Grueskin have also blamed BuzzFeed, Taibbi pointed out.
Grueskin’s Times essay featured a list of reasons why the now-discredited dossier was taken seriously by the liberal media, with examples including “Mr. Trump had long curried Mr. Putin’s favor” and “the denials came from confirmed liars,” along with noting many reporters simply didn’t like or trust Trump.
“No big deal, just an Ivy League J-school Dean offering excuse after excuse for reporters who couldn’t bring themselves to tell the truth during the biggest scandal of the Trump years, because they ‘didn’t want to appear to be on his side,’” Taibbi wrote. “He should be saying any journalist who’s too afraid of peer pressure to do his or her job should go into a new line of work. Apparently, Dean Grueskin favors a more forgiving approach to ethics.”
Taibbi also took aim at Kessler, who “offered a load of excuses” for the dossier being taken seriously. Kessler blamed everyone from BuzzFeed to “cable news shows” for pushing the dossier.
“The Danchenko indictment appeared to blow up the long-believed notion that former Russian-American Chamber of Commerce chief Sergei Millian was a source for the dossier. Kessler noted that the Washington Post twice reported on Millian in conjunction with the dossier, in 2017 and 2019, but recently admitted its error and corrected and updated both stories. So that was that,” Taibbi wrote. “Moving on, Kessler concluded ‘the Steele dossier has raised uncomfortable questions in media circles about whether [emphasis mine] some news organizations and TV pundits too quickly embraced sketchy opposition research.’ He wrote three more paragraphs about Smith and Buzzfeed before ending his piece.”
Taibbi believes there was “so much sleaze” he didn’t even know where to begin when breaking down Kessler’s piece.
“For one, there’s Kessler’s contention that the Steele dossier was a ‘side show’ to the ‘main event,’ i.e. ‘the Russian government’s efforts to intervene in the 2016 election on the side of Donald Trump,’” Taibbi wrote. “This is just a lie, flat-out.”
The independent journalist continued: “The press corps (and especially the Washington Post, which played a key role) didn’t keep Russia on the front pages for years because of ‘interference.’ Papers like the Post and the New York Times instead humped the leg of the Trump-Russia investigation as part of a broad, implied promise to deliver proof of conspiracy that would end Trump’s presidency prematurely.”
The Post has made over a dozen corrections to reports related to the Steele dossier, and relied on the infamous document for award-winning stories that haven’t been corrected. Taibbi believes outlets like the Post and Times were sidestepping fact-checking rules by “reporting the controversy” surrounding the dossier in order to put its lewd details in the minds of readers.
“They knew exactly what they were doing then, and they know what they’re doing now, in trying to dump years of manipulation on the likes of Danchenko and Ben Smith. Don’t be fooled. They were all guilty, and as we’re seeing now, they’ll sell out anyone to avoid admitting it,” Taibbi wrote.