CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin fretted Friday that many Americans would dismiss the news media as a “bunch of leftist liars” in the wake of the BuzzFeed News story called “not accurate” by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
BuzzFeed set off a Washington firestorm on Thursday with its report that President Donald Trump had directed longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. However, on Friday night, a spokesman for Mueller’s office said the report was “not accurate.”
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The story had dominated political discussions throughout the day on Friday, with multiple Democrats saying the report, if true, could merit impeachment proceedings against Trump. The rare comment by Mueller’s office calling the report inaccurate caused the left-leaning Toobin to worry it would further diminish the media’s reputation with the public.
“The larger message that a lot of people are going to take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the president, and they’re willing to lie to do it,” Toobin said. “And I don’t think that’s true.”
“I just think this is a bad day for us … It reinforces every bad stereotype about the news media,” he added.
“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter agreed with his latter statement but said as a media reporter, he was “desperate” for his audience to judge individuals and brands on a case-by-case basis.
“Don’t fall for what these politicians out there want you to do. They want you think we’re all crooked,” Stelter said. “We’re not.”
“Bad day for BuzzFeed,” Toobin said.
Stelter, a sharp critic of Fox News and the Trump administration, said the story will be used against the media as a whole. He said reporters needed to continue to tell people there was “so much evidence of wrongdoing” by Trump.
BuzzFeed News is standing by the story, and its editor-in-chief Ben Smith called on Mueller’s office to make it clear which aspects of the report it deemed inaccurate.