Aaron Maté is a Beast!
BY STEPHEN BONI ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
This statement was admiringly blurted out by political vlogger Jamarl Thomas on his program The Progressive Soapbox last week. What he was talking about was a recent interview that Aaron Maté, producer, journalist and on-air talent at Paul Jay’s Real News Network, did with veteran journalist James Risen, currently of The Intercept. What did they discuss? The jailing of Reality Winner—Risen’s source for a leaked NSA document about potential Russian digital interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential primary.
As I listened to this interview with Risen, I started having flashbacks to all the Columbo reruns I watched as a kid. If you’ve ever seen the old detective show with the inimitable Peter Falk, there was a formula: the disheveled working class Columbo would ask an endless stream of seemingly basic questions of his suspects, who were usually impatient and annoyed wealthy white people who thought he was far beneath them in the pecking order. Eventually, they would crack under the pressure of his incessant queries, realizing too late that he’d been amassing reams of factual evidence against them while they’d been too busy feeling superior to notice.
He starts out innocuously enough, setting the stage by asking Risen about Winner’s recent 5-year prison sentence and the unequal application of the law as compared to, say, former general and head of the CIA David Petraeus, who received little more than a light spanking and a wink for revealing highly classified information to his mistress. This was all in Risen’s wheelhouse and he got comfortable and righteous about the unfairness of Winner’s sentence, the imperial behavior of the Trump administration, yadda yadda.
All good and well, but then Maté did something unprecedented. He suggested they discuss the actual document Winner provided to Risen and The Intercept, which he had taken the time to review in detail. WTF!? Journalists aren’t supposed to behave this way anymore. They’re not supposed to act like skeptical detectives. They’re not supposed to look at the evidence. They’re not supposed to question their betters. But Maté, having ignored that memo, and merely by walking through the contents and relatively obvious meaning of the document, had Risen hemming and hawing indignantly. In fact, Risen remarkably refused to even discuss the contents of the document he was only moments before referencing as a legitimate, bombshell whistleblowing intel.
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