Department of Homeland Security Verifies That NBC’s Report Of Russian Hacking Was False And Irresponsible

Last week NBC and MSNBC continued to spread hysteria about Russia by both misrepresenting Congressional testimony regarding Russia and falsely labeling misinformation from several months ago as breaking news. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a statement verifying that the criticism written by many in the media, which I also discussed in this post. DHS called the report from NBC News incorrect and irresponsible reporting. The statement also stressed that, “we have no evidence – old or new – that any votes in the 2016 elections were manipulated by Russian hackers.” It was stated during the Congressional testimony that the action was primarily scanning of computer systems, which is done by both the United States and Russia.

The statement from DHS follows:

“Recent NBC reporting has misrepresented facts and confused the public with regard to Department of Homeland Security and state and local government efforts to combat election hacking. First off, let me be clear: we have no evidence – old or new – that any votes in the 2016 elections were manipulated by Russian hackers. NBC News continues to falsely report my recent comments on attempted election hacking – which clearly mirror my testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last summer – as some kind of “breaking news,” incorrectly claiming a shift in the administration’s position on cyber threats. As I said eight months ago, a number of states were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure. In the majority of cases, only preparatory activity like scanning was observed, while in a small number of cases, actors were able to access the system but we have no evidence votes were changed or otherwise impacted.

“NBC’s irresponsible reporting, which is being roundly criticized elsewhere in the media and by security experts alike, undermines the ability of the Department of Homeland Security, our partners at the Election Assistance Commission, and state and local officials across the nation to do our incredibly important jobs. While we’ll continue our part to educate NBC and others on the threat, more importantly, the Department of Homeland Security and our state and local partners will continue our mission to secure the nation’s election systems.

“To our state and local partners in the election community: there’s no question we’re making real and meaningful progress together. States will do their part in how they responsibly manage and implement secure voting processes. For our part, we’re going to continue to support with risk and vulnerability assessments, offer cyber hygiene scans, provide real-time threat intel feeds, issue security clearances to state officials, partner on incident response planning, and deliver cybersecurity training. The list goes on of how we’re leaning forward and helping our partners in the election community. We will not stop, and will stand by our partners to protect our nation’s election infrastructure and ensure that all Americans can have confidence in our democratic elections.”

While this does show the need for increased cybersecurity,  it does not justify the hysteria spread by NBC and repeated by many Democrats.

The misrepresentation of the facts made by NBC and MSNBC has often been cited by Democrats who have greatly exaggerated the threat, falsely seeing this as an unprecedented one-sided attack on our country, as opposed to the type of activity which has been commonplace by both the United States and Russia for many years. This has led to the totally unfounded belief by many Democrats that the 2016 election was stolen from Hillary Clinton. This gives the Democratic establishment excuses to avoid making necessary changes as their policies have lost step with voters, and much of the party base, leading to repeated electoral losses. Democrats need to accept that circumventing party rules to give the nomination to a candidate as terrible as Hillary Clinton was one of the worst blunders in political history, along with being an unethical act showing a total disregard for democratic principles.

This unfounded hysteria also feeds into the anti-Russian views of neoconservative interventionists who desire regime change in Russia, and has led to considerable McCarthyism from many Democrats who see legitimate criticism of the party from the left as originating from Russia. Rather than protecting democracy, anti-Russia hysteria is being used as an excuse to oppose dissent, leading to increased risk of censorship, including on social media.

This was only one of multiple examples of claims regarding Russia being made by the news media and later retracted. I listed this and other examples here, and The Nation has also debunked the irresponsible media coverage of claims about Russia. As I noted earlier in the year, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) has  criticized the coverage of Russia by Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


Editor Of Politico Magazine Expresses Skepticism Over Russiagate Conspiracy

NBC News Revives Debunked Claim Of Russia Hacking Voter Databases

I always find it ridiculous when CNN repeatedly calls news stories throughout the day “breaking news,” but NBC has taken this much further. NBC is taking a debunked claim of Russia hacking voter databases from several months ago, and labeled this “breaking news.” That would be like starting a news cast with a claim such as “Breaking News. There are Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq requiring military action.”

This claim was first made months ago, with the Department of Homeland Security subsequently reporting during Congressional testimony that all that occurred was routine scanning of computer systems, with it commonplace for Russia and the United States to routinely scan each other’s computer systems. The same is true of much of “Russiagate” with it being common for both Russia and the United States to meddle in the elections of each other and other countries, with no evidence of any actions in 2016 which altered the election results. After months of investigations, there has been evidence of money laundering and obstruction of justice by Donald Trump, but no evidence of any collusion between Trump and Putin which affected the election, despite repeated claims from Democrats.

For whatever it might mean, some states have also accused the Department of Homeland Security of trying to hack into their system.

Glenn Greenwald discussed this story here.  This was only one of multiple examples of claims regarding Russia being made by the news media and later retracted. I listed this and other examples here, and The Nation has also debunked the irresponsible media coverage of claims about Russia.

Despite the claims in this story being both old news and false information, NBC and MSNBC continued to spread this false claim, which was subsequently picked up by other media outlets. As I noted earlier in the year, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) has  criticized the coverage of Russia by Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

There very likely are vulnerabilities in our election systems which can be exploited. The proper response is to improve cyber-security. There is no place for the hysteria being spread by NBC and MSNBC, or for the McCarthyism and war mongering by some Democrats in response. It is dangerous to exaggerate Russian actions to place the blame for Clinton’s loss on a nuclear power such as Russia. This also leads to many Democrats failing to accept the real reasons why Hillary Clinton lost to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, reducing the chances that the Democrats will fix the problems which have resulted in multiple losses over the past decade.

Russia is hardly led by a band of boy scouts, but there are far more serious threats to our democracy. This includes Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, Republican voter suppression, Democratic McCarthyism and rigging of the nomination system to exclude more liberal and progressive viewpoints, and even, as I discussed yesterday, Facebook censorship of alternative opinions. In the scheme of things, Russia is minor threat which has been greatly exaggerated, distracting from our more serious problems.

FAIR (Fairness And Accuracy In Reporting) On MSNBC Substituting Russia Coverage For The Real News (Fairness And Accuracy in Reporting) has long has a reputation for liberal views and being more likely to criticize right wing media for bias, but is now taking on the Russia-hysteria at MSNBC. An article from FAIR from earlier in December was recently reposted by Salon. The article pointed out how much Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes concentrate on Russia:

At the beginning of December, liberal TV hosts Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow — the anchors of MSNBC’s primetime schedule — were confronted with ever-escalating breaking news. In the span of a week, from December 1 through December 7, President Donald Trump shrank two national monuments, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saw his travel ban upheld by the Supreme Court and possibly began to create his own spy network. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a tax “reform” bill that would radically restructure the U.S. economy at the expense of poor and middle-class Americans, and climate change-fueled wildfires devastated Southern California.

Yet on the weekdays their shows aired during those seven days — December 1 and 4-7 — both Hayes and Maddow bypassed all these stories to lead with minutiae from the ongoing Russia investigation that has consumed MSNBC’s coverage like no other news event since the beginning of the Trump presidency. Topical news of the day, whether on legislation or natural disasters, took a backseat. The Comcast-owned network’s two most popular personalities used their position to focus endlessly on speculative coverage of Russia’s role in the 2016 election — devoting the bulk of each show’s 15-minute opening segment to the story, at a minimum.

The streak was broken on December 8, when Hayes’ “All In” show led with the sexual harassment scandals roiling the nation, though he still devoted substantial time to Russia later in the broadcast: “The plot to stop Mueller is growing,” Hayes ominously intoned during the introduction, letting viewers know the story was coming.

While Hayes devoted his December 8 show to the allegations of sexual assault and harassment surrounding the president and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Maddow devoted her full Friday hour to her much-hyped special on “The Dossier” — a full hour devoted to a year-old document, as if it contained fresh news, complete with a graphic misusing Russian typography.

“We’re going to step back and look at the 35-page Trump Russia dossier,” Maddow said in the opening of the special. “And depending on which way the news is blowing, the allegations contained in this document can sound outlandish, or they can sound freakishly spot on.”

If this focus on Le Carré-style foreign machinations at the expense of all other news seems like a wild departure from the network’s nominal liberalism, then you’ve not been paying attention to FAIR’s reporting on MSNBC from the last two decades. There’s always been an air of discomfort around MSNBC at the way the cable news channel has in the last decade become — almost by default — a go-to spot for liberals seeking news and analysis. It took on this role only after repeated failures to share the conservative media market with Fox News.

The article went on a diversion to describe the history of how Comcast unsuccessfully trying to have a right wing news network, settling for MSNBC’s current format only when that failed. It now looks like spreading Cold War style Russia hysteria lets MSNBC avoid true issues of the left while still attracting a Democratic audience. Comcast can have its market without actually having to provide coverage from a liberal perspective anymore. As the article describes it, Russia provides “both a way for liberals to blow off steam and grumble at the sinister plots of the Trump administration, and for MSNBC executives to obfuscate policy in favor of tabloid-style reporting.”

The article resumed with its description the amount of coverage of Russia, from CNN, Chris Hayes, and especially Rachel Maddow:

Yet even in corporate media, Maddow stands alone in her devotion to the Russia story at the expense of all else. That was made clear on December 4, when Maddow told her audience that the news of the day was almost overwhelming: The Supreme Court had upheld the president’s ban on Muslims entering the country, the tax bill had been passed and a potential government shutdown, the shrinking of natural resources in the West by presidential fiat, the Olympics banning Russia, and the Alabama Senate race were all topical, important and worthy of coverage.

But for Maddow, they were a subordinate distraction to the only story worth covering.

“All those stories happened today,” Maddow told her audience:

“Any one of these stories might reasonably have been expected to start the world spinning backwards on its axis at any other time, right? In any other administration, at any other time in modern life. But in this administration, all this stuff is happening at once, and it’s all happening in the context of the most serious criminal and counterintelligence investigation that any US president has ever faced.”

After 11 months in office, the Trump administration is covered on the nation’s nominally liberal cable news channel in a way that makes clear that the priority isn’t to explain the reality of the administration and the human cost of the things that it does — but rather to blame the existence of Trump on a foreign conspiracy and offer hope that a white knight in the form of a special prosecutor will come to our rescue. Along with that concentration on Russia comes the deprioritization of the real-world effects of the Trump presidency and active political efforts to oppose them — and that tells us all we need to know about the priorities at Rockefeller Center. MSNBC is a hopped-up Cold War cover band, and its two lead singers are Maddow and Hayes.

This is hardly the first time FAIR pointed out this problem at MSNBC. Back in June they ran a story entitled, Eager for World War III on MSNBC.


News Media’s Unbalanced Look At Trump Vs. Clinton Revelations


The news over the past week has been virtually non-stop coverage of Donald Trump. There is no question that the revelations which first confirmed everything suspected about Donald Trump’s view of women and then led to multiple reports of Trump sexually assaulting women deserves major coverage. However, there have also been revelations from the email leaks about major dishonesty and corruption regarding Hillary Clinton which the media has given a small fraction of the coverage to.

A media reporter for The Hill has demonstrated how one-sided the coverage has been:

In viewing recordings by The Hill of each major network’s evening newscasts, which are watched by an average total of 22 million to 24 million people nightly, the newest batch of WikiLeaks revelations was covered for a combined 57 seconds out of 66 minutes of total air time on ABC, NBC and CBS.

Those leaked emails include derogatory comments about Catholics by senior Clinton campaign officials and more disturbing examples of collusion between the media and her campaign It’s newsworthy stuff) —

On the other hand, allegations from four women of unwanted sexual advances by Trump were covered a combined 23 minutes.

Add it all up, and one presidential candidate’s negative news of the day was somehow covered more than 23 times more than another candidate’s negative news of the day.

It’s understood what has always sold in this business: sizzle always trumps steak, sex always triumphs over substance. If you told me the coverage was 2-1 or even a 3-1 ratio of Trump to Clinton, you wouldn’t be reading this column right now.

But a story winning the lead over another is one thing. Devouring it to the point of almost total omission via a more than 23:1 ratio is quite another:

“NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt devoted zero seconds to the Democrat and Wikileaks on Thursday night.

“ABC World News Tonight” with David Muir gave it the same time as a shot clock in college basketball: 30 seconds.

“CBS Evening News” with Scott Pelley when 27 seconds with the story.

To put the importance of evening news editorial into context, the size of the its collective audience each night trounces the highest-rated program on CNN. In Wednesday night’s case, that was “Anderson Cooper 360,” with 1.925 million viewers. On MSNBC, it was “All in with Chris Hayes,” with 1.926 million. On Fox News, it was “The O’Reilly Factor,” with 3.728 million.

Add all of those up, and it’s just shy of 7.6 million, or about one-third the number of people watching ABC, NBC and CBS, the networks presenting — in theory, anyway — straight news stories without the opinion and conjecture that dominates cable news…

Somewhere around 23 million people absorbed Trump getting pulverized for 23 minutes across the Big Three broadcast network evening newscasts.

Less than a minute combined was devoted to damaging documents pertaining to Clinton.

There are probably two different reasons for this discrepancy. First, sex sells. This might justify giving top billing, and possibly even more time, to the stories on Trump. It does not justify virtually ignoring the stories pertaining to Clinton. Secondly, the people in the news media generally prefer Clinton over Trump. Regardless of whether this opinion is justified, this is just bad journalism.

There is also an important reason to place Clinton under more scrutiny. Hillary Clinton will most likely be the next president. The chances of Trump winning are now very remote. Clinton’s history of corruption is directly relevant to what we need to be on guard against for the next four years.

The media has also done a great job of digging into Trump’s past. As I noted at the time of the second presidential debate, once Trump claimed that the leaked video which started this was all talk, he opened himself up to being contradicted by any women who would come forward with stories of actually being sexually assaulted by him.

If only the media would do a better job of looking into Clinton’s past. Donald Trump touching women’s bodies without their consent is inexcusable, but so are the bombs dropped on women (along with children, and men) in wars promoted by Hillary Clinton, often under false pretenses, also inexcusable.

Hillary Clinton pushed for the Iraq war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda after failing to even read the intelligence material made available to members of the Senate–information which led some other Senators to oppose the war. She similarly orchestrated regime change in Libya with the facts contradicting her arguments for war. She pushed for intervention in Syria on rather irrational grounds, and now joins with other neocons in pushing for further aggression against Russia.

Certainly this is also something of significance for the media to explore, even if less titillating than the stories on Donald Trump.

Obama Kicks GOP Ass

Here’s why we voted for Barack Obama. Above is a clip of Obama discussing health care at the GOP House Issues Conference. Obama took on and demolished every GOP argument. Whether its Kerry debating Bush, Obama debating McCain, or Obama debating the GOP House delegation, Republican views just cannot stand up to fact-based rational arguments.

Barack Obama vs. 140 Republicans just isn’t a fair fight. The Republicans didn’t stand a chance.

Obama repeatedly took loaded questions packed with all the usual Republican talking points and turned them against them.

The full transcript is available here. It was shown on C-SPAN and MSNBC is also replaying the event in prime time tonight. Marc Ambinder described the event:

Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months. Debating a law professor is kind of foolish: the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama’s weakness — his penchant for nuance — into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president. (By the way: can we stop with the Obama needs a teleprompter jokes?)

More than the State of the Union — or on top of the State of the Union — this may be a pivotal moment for the future of the presidential agenda on Capitol Hill. (Democrats are loving this. Chris Hayes, The Nation‘s Washington bureau chief, tweeted that he hadn’t liked Obama more since the inauguration.)

During the presidential campaign, it was John McCain who proposed a form of the British Prime Ministers’ questions for the president. It was derided as a gimmick. This is no gimmick. I have not seen a better and perhaps more productive political discussion in this country in…a long time. 90 minutes worth!

Maybe since Al Gore debated Ross Perot on NAFTA. Republicans may have wished they had spoken to John McCain about what happened to him in the presidential debates before they decided to broadcast this session. The president looked genuinely engaged, willing to discuss things. Democrats believe that he tossed away the GOP talking points and lack of real plans into a bludgeon against them. “The whole question was structured by a talking point,” he told Jeb Hensarling. Obama took the blame for not living up to some of his promises on transparency in health care negotiations. He displayed a familiarity with Republican proposals that seemed to astonish those who asked questions of him. And at the end, Republicans rushed up to him, pens and photo cameras in hands, wanting autographs and pictures.

Mused one mid-level White House official: “This really is the best thing we’ve done in a long, long time”

Massachusetts was an eternity ago. The momentum is now in Obama’s direction as he gives the GOP the choice of joining in or walking away, with their decision being televised.

More video: