That the Guardian story would be seen as an earth-shattering revelation – one that would bring massive amounts of traffic, attention, glory and revenue to the paper – was obvious. And that’s precisely how it was treated, as it instantly ricocheted around the media ecosystem with predictable viral speed: “The ultimate Whoa If True. It’s … [the] ballgame if true,” pronounced MSNBC’s Chris Hayes who, unlike many media figures reacting to the story, sounded some skepticism: “The sourcing on this is a bit thin, or at least obscured.”
But Hayes’ cable news colleague Ari Melber opened his MSNBC show that night excitedly touting the Guardian’s scoop while meticulously connecting all the new inflammatory dots it uncovered, asking one guest: “how does this bombshell impact the collusion part of the probe”?
From the start, the massive holes in the Guardian’s blockbuster were glaring. As I noted on the day the story published, analysts from across the political spectrum – including those quite hostile to Assange – expressed serious doubts about the article’s sourcing, internal logic, self-evidently dubious assertions and overall veracity, even as many media figures uncritically trumpeted it.
How could it be that Paul Manafort, of all people, snuck into one of the most monitored, survilled, videoed and photographed buildings on the planet on three separate occasions without any of that ostensibly “smoking gun” visual evidence having emerged, including in the Guardian’s own story?…