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Over the past weeks, our team has begun indexing millions of news articles across the web and running them through the BitpressRank algorithm to calculate the trust of each article and publisher. While we’re working to make this data accessible on demand, we’re going to post our analysis of the top stories every day as part of our Newsgraph series.
Here are today’s 10 most talked about stories in the media, as determined by crosslinks between media organizations.
- Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records (The New Yorker)
- Giuliani: Mueller’s team told Trump’s lawyers they can’t indict a president (CNN)
- Top Trump Adviser Navarro to Take Part in China Talks After All (Bloomberg)
- Scoop: Peter Navarro’s sharp words for Steven Mnuchin (Axios)
- Mueller issues grand jury subpoenas to Trump adviser’s social media consultant (Reuters)
- Trump Refers To Immigrants As ‘Animals.’ Again. (Huffington Post)
- FBI agents said to be probing Michael Cohen’s deal with Korean firm (Washington Post)
- Analysis: Trump’s ‘animals’ comment on undocumented immigrants earn backlash, historical comparisons (Washington Post)
- “They’re animals”: Trump on deported immigrants (Vox)
- Boulder City Council Unanimously Passes Ban on Assault Weapons (Daily Camera)
Analyzing the crosslinks between media organizations provides an interesting look into how different outlets are presenting the same stories, revealing inherent biases present across different topics.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
The #1 story of the day is an interview between the New Yorker and the individual that leaked financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms.
This story offers a great look into how the same story is editorialized by different media organizations across the political spectrum, and shows that conservative sources aren’t the only ones using emotionally loaded headlines as a tactic.
What the Right is Saying
Conservative outlets appear to largely be silent on the issue, with only 2 publications linking to the interview.
The Gateway Pundit, a far right publication, calls the whistleblower a criminal in their incredibly loaded headline.
“More Cohen dealings under scrutiny, as financial document leaker speaks out. (Fox News)
While the headline fails to mention the key takeaway from the New Yorker piece, that the person that leaked the documents was concerned about some allegedly missing, but this is addressed in the article and overall seems neutral.
What the Left is Saying
Left leaning organizations are pushing the potential conspiracy angle, with several outlets mentioning a potential cover up in their titles.
CBS News’ title seems the least emotionally loaded, clearly establishing the source of the claim as the document leaker, and stating they were missing rather than implying some sort of cover up.
Whistleblower reportedly leaked Cohen’s financials over a potential cover-up (The Huffington Post)
In the middle, the Huffington post published a piece which has the conditional “potential” but does suggest a “cover up” rather than simply stating the documents are missing, and doesn’t make it as clear the source of the claim is the whistleblower.
Finally, on the far end of the liberal spectrum we have an outright claim of scandal, and a shot at Republicans from Salon.
The #2 story of the day, and the one most linked to by conservative sources is a CNN interview with Guiliani, in which he claims Meuller’s team said they can’t indict a president.
The Washington Post contextualized this by saying:
The special counsel’s conclusion signals that it would be left to Congress to address any finding of wrongdoing by Trump in the investigation.
They also point out that this isn’t unexpected:
Most legal experts have assumed Mueller would follow the Justice Department’s guidelines that bar such a prosecution. The two opinions, written in 1974 and in 2000, argue that a president must be immune from criminal prosecution from his executive branch while in office. If a president had to consider the possibility of criminal jeopardy, the opinions argue, he might be dangerously constrained in making decisions that are critical to his role as commander in chief.*
“This case is essentially over,” Giuliani told Fox. “They’re just in denial.”
The original CNN interview, however, makes the answer seem less certain.
“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein publicly discussed the issue earlier this month at an event held by the Freedom Forum Institute. He was asked if a sitting president can be indicted.”
“I’m not going to answer this in the context of any current matters, so you shouldn’t draw any inference about it,” Rosenstein said. “But the Department of Justice has in the past, when the issue arose, has opined that a sitting president cannot be indicted. There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about this, I just don’t have anything more to say about it.”
Giuliani was more definite.
Meanwhile The Hill points out holes in Guliani’s statements regarding the ability of the president to be subpoenaed.
Giuliani said the president cannot be subpoenaed because his position guarantees him immunity based on the Constitution. However, no federal laws or rulings from the high court have barred a sitting president from being subpoenaed.
This isn’t new information, as lawfareblog pointed out in July of last year, so why is it being pushed so hard by conservative outlets? The conservative media appear to be using the interview as a way of saying Trump has defeated the Mueller investigation, and claiming Guliani is turning things around.
WND, another conservative outlet, says:
President Trump brought Rudy Giuliani onto his legal team in what many viewed has a strategy to pressure FBI special counsel Robert Mueller to wrap up the “Russia collusion” investigation.
It might be working.
Trump Refers To Immigrants As ‘Animals.’ Again. (Huffington Post)
Finally, this headline appears to be the most controversial, with the media firmly split. Both sides are talking about the story however, with 3 separate articles appearing on the top 10.
The article refers to a statement made by trump made at a press conference, the Washington Post provides the transcript:
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims***: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
President Trump*: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.
Several other media outlets, however, are claiming the quote was made out of context. The National Review (Conservative), RT (Conservative), and Mediate (Center) are all claiming that the president was explicitly referring to the group MS-13, rather than undocumented immigrants as a whole, and that other news outlets are taking his quote out of context.
Was it out of context? I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide. The original Huffington Post article contains a video that has been edited not include the question the president was asked prior to his answer — which seems like an effort to intentionally add sensationalism to the story. Furthermore, none of the articles condemning the president for his statement present the opposing viewpoint, that the president was referring to MS-13, which seems to run counter to the journalistic principle of reporting “both sides of the story”.
The damage from this can be seen in the response from conservative outlets. Legal Insurrection, for example ran an article with the headline “Fake News story about Trump calling all immigrants “animals” is why people hate the media”.
This situation is exactly the reason so many conservatives have been driven away from the mainstream media and is a clear example of an inherently left bias across even the larger news organizations.
Let’s review what we have seen:
- We’ve seen how both sides craft emotionally loaded headlines to tell different sides of the same story.
- We’ve seen how the conservative media hijacked an interview revealing no new information to drive a political agenda.
- We’ve seen how the liberal media was quick to attack the president over a statement that was likely taken out of context, without giving him the chance to defend himself.
All of this supports the idea we are becoming increasingly polarized within our own media echo chambers. However, by looking at the media collectively, across both ends of the political spectrum, it is possible to identify the truth.
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