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Jake Tapper and Bill Kristol on the MSM and the Massacre: Outcomes-Based Journalism

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Tuesday’s show featured many conversations with D.C.-based journalists and commentators on what went wrong –and right– with yesterday’s coverage.

Two bear reading closely.  The transcript of my conversation with CNN’s Jake Tapper is already posted here, and the transcript of my interview with Bill Kristol is here.

The audio of the chat with Tapper has been picked up by Mediaite and also by because it is the first conversation with an MSMer on how the AR-15 meme developed.  Tapper offers a plausible explanation while also admitted that many in the MSM work such terrible attacks with a precut template in the front of mind.  Key excerpt:

HH: [I]n all [these] cases, the media tries to put an AR-15 at the scene.

JT: Well…

HH: That happened again yesterday. It was sort of like outcomes-based journalism. Where did that come from?

JT: I don’t know. I certainly never reported that. I don’t know where that came from. I understand that that is incorrect information. I can’t speak to the motivation of anybody who was talking about the fact that it was an AR-15 other than the fact that I think that there were some reports that it was. One of the doctors said during the press conference at Washington Hospital Center, and you know, unfortunately, Washington Hospital Center has experience with gunshot wounds. One of the first stories I covered in Washington, D.C. when I was the City Paper, was a boxer who was actually killed at Washington Hospital Center, shot at. And anyway, the physician there said that she thought it was a semi-automatic gun that had done the shooting. It turns out it was a shotgun, which also makes sense when you think about the severity of the wounds to the police officer’s legs, the fact that they were almost severed from one or two blasts.

HH: You know, you’re right. That’s got to be where it came from, because I heard the same press conference. I think you’re right, because these things get into the storyline, and I made mistakes yesterday, too. Fox News reported shots fired at the White House. I repeated it. So people make mistakes in this situation, so I’m not, I’m not down on people, but that AR-15 mistake has been made before, and I just think it’s sometimes we’ve got people who want them to be there. Let me ask you, Jake, the really…

JT: There certainly is, I understand, there certainly is a meme that it fits into, which is those who favor greater restrictions on gun control seem to have targeted this particular weapon, AR-15…

HH: Yes.

JT: …even though if you look at the, which guns cause the most violence or homicide, it’s actually handguns.

The issue of what Peter Hamby knew and what he did with it is also interesting:

HH: Let me close in the last couple of minutes, kudos to Peter Hamby and CNN who rolled up to the Marriott where the killer had been staying, even as the police and the FBI arrived. They may have beat them to the scene on the basis of a tip. That’s pretty extraordinary. But question, Jake, if the news media gets a tip like that, do they roll to the scene? Or do they tell the FBI that the guy, because it could have been wired for explosives. You never know. That’s what happened with the Aurora killer.

JT: Oh, it’s interesting. I don’t know. I’ve never been in a situation like that. Peter is a fantastic reporter. He is one of our shining lights, and if you haven’t read his…

HH: Oh, I read it.

JT: …treatise, yeah.

HH: Oh, it’s good, from the Shorenstein Center? Yes.

JT: Yeah, really interesting stuff about how the Romney campaign and Twitter didn’t connect as perhaps they could have. In any case, moving on, I don’t know. I suppose before you go into a hotel room, you want to let law enforcement know. But at the same time, in a fluid situation, look, there were witnesses yesterday who media were talking to on M Street SE, and they’d be in the middle of talking to us, and all of a sudden, the FBI came and grabbed them, because they hadn’t had a chance to talk to them, too. In a situation like this, it’s very fluid, and everybody’s trying to grab what they can. Obviously, law enforcement takes precedence, but that doesn’t mean they get there first.

I think the issue is simple: MSM must share info about terrorism suspects with law enforcement as soon as it reaches them.  Not sure that Hamby did or if he even considered the Aurora precedent, but “tips” and “scoops” don’t have much of a role to play in such situations, at least not vis-a-vis law enforcement.

Bill Kristol and I spent less time on the “wish fulfillment” journalism of the MSM and more on the president’s incredible tone-deaf response to the massacre, and even more time on what happens next in a presidency desperate for applause:

HH: Douglas Feith, writing in the Wall Street Journal today, says “Bashar Assad may have pulled off the most successful use of chemical weapons in history. For the two years leading up to the August 21st Damascus Sarin gas attack, President Obama was saying that the Syrian dictator must go. No longer. In one month, Assad has risen from outlaw butcher to partner in disarmament.” That’s pretty devastating, Bill Kristol, and I think it’s probably registered on them, and I think it’s leading to increasingly chaotic attempts to get back in the game.

BK: I think that’s so, and here’s a scary attempt to get back in the game, I think. I think next week, he goes to the UN General Assembly, I think he speaks Tuesday morning. Rouhani, the new head of Iran, speaks…pseudo head, but the president of Iran speaks Tuesday afternoon. There’s some meeting then about the Iranian nuclear program on Thursday. I believe they’re going to use the Syria template for Iran, and launch negotiations, and make some concessions, and get the Iranians to make some phony concessions, and maybe Putin will help out again. And we will be off to the races on an appeasement that is much more serious, though the Syria thing is bad enough, of Iran. I’m very worried about the next couple of weeks, and I think you could get in a situation where we have long negotiations dragging on, the Iranians quietly moving ahead with a nuclear program while being nice to us, Obama desperate, as he was with Syria, now even more desperate to get a bigger deal with Iran, in a sense.

HH: Yeah.

BK: You know, some appeasement leads to…little appeasement leads to bigger appeasement. The appeasement of Mussolini led to the appeasement of Hitler. I mean, you’ve got a sort of comparable situation in a way, and I’m very worried about this. And I really wish Republicans on the Hill, I’ve been trying to tell them this for the last 24-48 hours, they need to stand up. And especially if they were against supporting the resolution for the use of force in Syria, say look, Syria was a mess, I didn’t think we could quite do anything there, I didn’t trust the President to do it right. But on Iran, we cannot, this is not a close call. This is not a gray line. This really is a red line for the nation and for the world. I’m very worried that we’re going to see the President start to move those red lines from the UN Security Council resolutions, from the previous things he and President Bush have said about what isn’t acceptable for Iran to do, and suddenly, well, some enrichment’s okay, and let’s talk about that, and maybe the Russians could help store some of the stuff, and engage in a big negotiation with the attempt of preventing Israel from doing what it has to do.


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