People usually frame Trump’s war on the press as if it’s just him making Soviet-style “enemy of the people” declarations against the media. But Trump gets plenty of help in belittling the mainstream press from conservative media — and not just by them parroting his punch lines, either.
One great example of this occurred last week when reporters asked for information about the jurors assigned to the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Conservatives accused the journalists of trying to sway the jurors into ruling for a conviction against Manafort, who is charged with eighteen counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts.
Jurors started deliberating Wednesday. Surprisingly, considering how mobbed up Manafort (and indeed the whole Trump apparatus) is, they have not been sequestered, meaning it’s probably likely that jurors have heard President Trump lobby on behalf of his old friend. (“It’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort,” Trump told the press, an endorsement that Manafort’s defense lawyer said he appreciated.)
We may never find out what jurors thought or heard during deliberations once the trial ends. Judge T.S. Ellis III has blocked the release of any information that might get them identified by the press. Requesting access to juror info is a common reporter gambit — used, for example, after the Bill Cosby trial — to get the sort of juror quotes you read in high-level, post-trial reports. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Politico, and BuzzFeed all petitioned the court together to obtain the jurors’ names and addresses and other currently unavailable Manafort trial information, citing precedent that jury information should be revealed “absent extraordinary circumstances such as ‘realistic threats of violence or jury corruption.’ ”
But, Judge Ellis said there had been threats — to him. Ellis revealed he was under the protection of U.S. marshals, and said he feared for the jurors’ “peace and safety,” which led him to refuse the request.
Seems pretty straightforward. But conservatives — who did not know, or did not care to know — that this was standard journalistic practice told readers that reporters wanted to know the jurors’ names, not to write stories, but so they could “dox” them to coerce a conviction of Manafort on behalf of the Democrats.
At the Federalist, Bre Payton attacked what she described as CNN’s “long history of doxxing threats and harassment” and said “publicly outing the names and home addresses of jurors is considered ethically questionable” — as if it had been established that CNN, or anyone else, planned to do that to the Manafort jury.
Payton cited two pieces of evidence for her claim: CNN’s 2017 attempt to expose the person who posted a viral clip of Trump beating up a guy who had a CNN logo covering his head, and the network’s February 2018 contentious interview with Florine Gruen Goldfarb, a Florida Trump supporter whose Team Trump Broward Facebook page, according to CNN, listed events “promoted and encouraged by Russian trolls.” (Goldfarb’s responses in an interview with CNN regarding the possibility that Russians hacked into her group’s Facebook account were maladroit; she said accusations of Russian involvement were just a “cover-up” for “the shooting that was done at the high school.” At the time, conservative media portrayed her as an innocent victim of a “reporter ambush” who was “receiving threats on social media,” thus proving she had been “doxxed” rather than her merely having agreed to be interviewed.)
Payton’s accusations gave the brethren some talking points. “CNN Accused of Intimidating Paul Manafort Jury,” claimed John Nolte at Breitbart. Nolte called the request by CNN and the “six other far-left media outlets…disturbing and almost unprecedented.”
Nolte seemed to take Payton’s word that CNN planned to publish the jurors’ names and addresses without their consent. As evidence Nolte cited how CNN, during its 2013 coverage of the trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin briefly showed a police document onscreen that showed Zimmerman’s Social Security number. Apparently this had been done in error, and yet Nolte nonetheless portrayed it as proof of CNN’s “desperation for a conviction in that case.” (He didn’t say how Zimmerman’s Social Security number would have helped the prosecution.)
Nolte suggested something similar was happening with Manafort: “What many see here, and not without precedent,” he wrote, “is yet another attempt by the media, most especially CNN, to bully and intimidate private, everyday citizens into convicting Manafort.… Jurors are almost certain to learn that these powerful anti-Trump outlets are hunting them down.”
“CNN and Other Leftist Outlets Accused of Planning to Smear Manafort Jury,” said Cillian Zeal at the Conservative Tribune. “CNN’s request to the court looks less like an act of journalists seeking information than it does the groundwork of a plan to attack the Manafort jury if it comes back with a verdict the media doesn’t like.… It’s doxxing, plain and simple.”
Perhaps aware that all but the most credulous wingnut readers would find this argument unconvincing, some conservative commentators clung to plausible, just-asking, others-accuse deniability, but some couldn’t restrain themselves.
“Was The Media Trying To Dox And Intimidate Jurors At Paul Manafort’s Trial?” riddle-me-this’d RedState. But after a few paragraphs it lost its cool: “This seems like a raw attempt at jury tampering. Like these news organizations were telling the jurors ‘we know where you live and if you f*** this up we’ve got you.’ ”
“Judge Ellis in Manafort Case Denies Dox-Factory CNN’s Demand for Juror Information,” brayed Ace of Spades, “Says He Himself Has Been Threatened, and The Jurors Would Be As Well.” Then Spades added, “Of course. That was the point. Also the point? Letting the jurors know that the media is very interested in digging up their identities, and will keep on trying.”
“Perhaps [the jurors] have seen the videos of Trump administration officials harassed in restaurants, businesses protested and boycotted for expressing pro-Trump sentiment, and street attacks by Antifa,” mused William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. “While a Not Guilty verdict for Manafort would not in fact be a ‘pro-Trump’ gesture, there is little doubt it would be perceived that way by the anti-Trump resistance.”
“Why do you suppose seven news organizations — all liberal, presumably — wanted to know who the jurors are and where they live?” asked John Hinderaker at Power Line. To contact them for interviews? Wrong! “They are worried that the jury, having heard the evidence, may not render the ‘right’ verdict, i.e., the one that helps the Democratic Party,” declared Hinderaker. “So they want to know who the jurors are so they can apply pressure on them through mob action, newspaper denunciations, online harassment and so on. This is how today’s Democratic Party operates.”
“Wow. So now they’ve gotten into the jury-tampering business,” marveled Monica Showalter at American Thinker. “They’re more interested in who the jury is than the trial itself.” Showalter compared the press to “Jean-Paul Marat, one of the French Revolution’s bloodthirstiest leftists (this is where we get the term ‘leftist’),” and added, “Oh, and note that this request takes place in the city of Alexandria, Virginia, home of shotgun political violence against Republican House leader Steve Scalise, who was nearly killed by aimed gunfire in a leftist assassination attempt while on a baseball field. You can bet the jury knows about that one.” It all adds up!
“Suing to doxx jurors was more threatening than simply doing it,” tweeted actor-turned-troll James Woods. “It’s like the mafia leaving a dead fish on your windshield.”
“And you can bet that the minute this information becomes publicly available, CNN will rush to broadcast it [sic] every single American — including the deranged ones — it can reach,” said Vivek Saxena at BizPac Review.
Yeah, that’s how journalists operate. They claim they’re “reporting news,” but they’re really passing on orders to kill. It’s easy to understand why conservatives think this way. They themselves admit that right-wing media outlets don’t do a lot of reporting, and most are simply content to chest-pound on behalf of Donald Trump. So would they even recognize what journalism is? Under such circumstances it would make sense if they came to consider journalism in the same way they consider creative endeavors: as vaguely disreputable dark arts practiced only by their enemies, to be beaten back with slander and propaganda.