This is one of the biggest scandals in the modern history of journalism. It calls into question the most basic code of reporting — the question about whom the reporter serves.
By David Sirota and Andrew Perez and cross-posted from sirota.substack.com.
Back in February, there were plenty of questions about just how deadly the coronavirus was, and how it could be transmitted. Was it really all that lethal? Could you catch it through the air? Some experts said it probably wasn’t airborne. Few seemed to have definitive answers. But the nation’s most famous celebrity journalist knew — and knew the president did too — but decided not to tell anyone, and nearly 200,000 people have died since.
This is the story of Bob Woodward — the man who earned fame and fortune uncovering the Watergate scandal, and now the man who decades later was informed by the President of the United States that a pandemic was deadly and airborne, and decided to hold that information for seven months so he could juice book sales at a more opportune time closer to the election.
“It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch,” Trump told Woodward in early February, months before scientists publicly pressed the World Health Organization to acknowledge the airborne nature of the disease. “You know, the touch, you don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so, that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than your — you know, your, even your strenuous flus.”
Trump openly admitted to Woodward that he wanted to downplay the severity of the virus. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told him in March. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
It is important to remember two things: 1) the first set of comments came in FEBRUARY, well before there was widespread public awareness of the lethality of the virus and 2) as much of a buffoon as he is, Trump is not some rando just speculating. He is quite literally the president, with access to the world’s top scientists. So he was divulging crucial, newsworthy and time-sensitive information. Clearly, he knew more about the lethality and transmission of the virus than he was publicly letting on, and yet he was still downplaying the severity of the disease and insinuating that it is like the common flu.
That’s a horrific crime against humanity — but it was aided and abetted by the popular face of investigative journalism: Mr. All The President’s Men himself.
Crimes like this often happen in secret. They take years to suss out — and in many instances, their details never see the light of day. Journalists’ job is, in part, to try to prevent disasters from happening and to protect the public interest — indeed, the motto of the Washington Post is literally a warning that “democracy dies in darkness.” In other words, our job is to try to expose such crimes as they are taking place, in order to both deter them and to make the public aware of imminent danger.
Woodward did the opposite. He was informed of the crime taking place. And yet rather than immediately using his platform — possibly the biggest media platform in the entire world — to sound an alarm, Woodward instead followed a code of omerta that aided and abetted the wrongdoing…