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SURIANO: Media has been manipulated to be Russian pawns of division

Opinion Column: A RINO's View

Last summer, I interned at a Republican congressional office and every day I would take calls from people who were genuinely angry that President Donald J. Trump had colluded with Russia. These people, in their bones, believed that Trump was a traitor. Why? Because the media told them so. 

So, when Attorney General William Barr released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings a week ago yesterday, it must have been a shock to learn that Trump is not a traitor, after years of Democrats calling him a traitor and his presidency illegitimate. Mueller found that neither Trump nor members of his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the presidential election. Nor did they find evidence to support a charge of obstruction of justice. 

In short, Trump was cleared of the allegations made against him. It is now clear that the media has failed its duty to provide the facts to the American people. They have done this because of an underlying bias against Republicans, a bias that has festered for years. Now does this mean Russia is not a threat? No, quite the opposite, as it has in fact succeeded in its goal to sow division in America. In order to restore confidence in American institutions, the media must confront their failings, turn away from partisanship and return to there duty of fact finding. 

The media for two years accused Trump of crimes, and since they were wrong, there must be a reckoning for its failures. For example, Buzzfeed reported that Trump directed his personal attorney to lie on his behalf, which a reasonable person could describe as obstruction of justice. The only problem is it was not true as Mueller came out and denied its report. 

I could list many more examples of the media’s mistakes but you, dear reader, have not been living under a rock and know that “Russiagate” has been all cable news has talked about since the election. If it was not, why was Beto O’Rourke so comfortable the night before the Mueller Report dropped and said he believed Trump “beyond the shadow of a doubt, sought to ... collude with the Russian government?” The media allowed Democrats to launch false political attacks with impunity, causing facts to fall farther from our political discussion. 

I do not want to just attack the media for its failures, I want it to get better. It has to face the plain fact that its biases have affected its reporting on Trump. It failed its basic duty and caused Americans to further distrust our institutions.

In doing so the media has fulfilled the Russian goals of dividing the American people. I am not a Russian apologist. On the contrary, I am a Russian hawk. When former-President Barack Obama allowed Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine with little resistance, I was angry. When Mitt Romney called Russia America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe and Obama laughed at him, I was angry. So, when we learned Russia had interfered in 2016, I was angry. 

I was always doubtful Trump was actually involved because I did not believe the Trump campaign was competent enough for conspiracies. That being said, it is a fact the Russians tried to influence our election. Their goal, as the Mueller Report has stated, was to divide America and cause distrust in American institutions. The media has served as the Russian pawns by doing just this. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats now believe that Russians changed the outcome of the 2016 election. 

This is the great failure of the media. It has allowed the Russians, with minimal work, to shake the confidence in our institutions. Since the country has been focused on this phantom conspiracy theory, it has not focused on the real failures of 2016. That being said, Obama failed to prevent the Russians from causing chaos in our system. The media has, in effect, done the Russians' bidding.

So where do we go from here? The media needs to seriously confront its biases. It has to double-check and triple-check its sources if the report is confirming its biases. It starts from the point of view that Republicans are bad, and Democrats get the benefit of the doubt. In short, it has to have good journalists. Otherwise, be a partisan, be an opinion writer, but do not be a straight journalist. In this period of history, in which trust in institutions are low, the media needs to be better. I honestly believe that the media plays a crucial role in our system and by failing, it does itself, its industry and its country a disservice. 

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and  Sciences junior majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs  on alternate Mondays.


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