Fake News: For eight years, it was virtually impossible to get
reporters interested in legitimate Obama administration
scandals. Now, they are so eager to run scandal stories about
the incoming Trump administration that they are making them up.
Two stories from major news outlets demonstrate this.
First is the New York Times hit piece on Trump's pick for Energy
Secretary, Rick Perry. It claimed that until days after Perry
accepted the job, he "knew almost nothing about" the fact that a
key function of the Energy Department is the stewardship of the
nation's nuclear arsenal.
The story spread like wildfire, with journalists falling over
each other to tweet out clever Perry put downs.
What was the Times' alarming claim based on? Nothing more than a
twisted interpretation of a single quote from one person:
Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who was canned
from the Trump transition team before Perry was picked. McKenna
himself has since said the Times misinterpreted what he said.
Apparently, the Times reporters and editors were so eager to get
this bogus story out before Perry's nomination hearings started
that they didn't bother to read the statement Perry himself
issued on the day he accepted the nomination: "I look forward to
engaging in a conversation about the development, stewardship
and regulation of our energy resources, safeguarding our nuclear
arsenal, and promoting an American energy policy that creates
jobs and puts America first." (Emphasis added.)
Does that sound like someone who didn't know about this part of
the Energy Department's portfolio?
The story was so egregiously wrong that even the liberal New
York magazine took the Times to task for spreading a false rumor.
Just days before, CNN ran a hit piece on Rep. Tom Price —
Trump's pick to head the Health and Human Services Department —
for supposedly engaging in insider trading last year.
A "bombshell" story published on Tuesday — titled "First on CNN:
Trump's pick invested in company, then introduced a bill to help
it" — said Price had bought as much as $15,000 worth of shares
in Zimmer Biomet (ZBH), a company that makes knee and hip
replacements. Then, the story goes, he introduced the HIP Act,
which would have delayed an ObamaCare regulation that would, if
implemented, hurt Zimmer Biomet and other device makers.
This, CNN reporter Manu Raju asserted, raised "new concerns
among ethics experts that Price may have inappropriately used
inside information while purchasing shares in a company."
"When you look at the timeline, this raises significant
questions," CNN's Erin Burnett said about the story.
Sen. Charles Schumer responded to the CNN report with a call to
delay Price's confirmation hearings until the congressional
ethics office does a "thorough investigation."
It's not as though this sort of self-dealing hasn't gone on in
Washington. Peter Schweizer's 2011 book, "Throw Them All Out,"
was full of such examples, including lucrative stock trades by
Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and other prominent Democrats.
Schweizer's book led to the STOCK Act in 2012, which tried to
combat insider trading by lawmakers.
But the only "significant questions" CNN's story about Price
raises have to do with CNN's credibility as a news source.
It's worth noting at the outset that the HIP Act had zero chance
of making it into law. In fact, it didn't even make it out of
committee, and would have been promptly vetoed if it had managed
to make it to President Obama's desk. Anyone involved with the
legislation at the time would have known this, including Price.
(Congressmen introduce bills all the time that they know aren't
The rest of the CNN story falls apart with just a cursory look
at the facts.
First, Price didn't buy those shares. His portfolio was managed
by Morgan Stanley, which designed the account's investment
strategy and directed all trades. As part of a routine
rebalancing of Price's account in early 2016, Morgan Stanley
bought 26 shares in Zimmer Biomet, worth a grand total of
$2,697.74. (Price's net worth is on the order of $10 million.)
The timing of that transaction doesn't implicate Price in any
way, either. Morgan Stanley bought those shares in mid-March,
but didn't tell Price about that trade, or any of the others it
made during its rebalancing, until April 4.
That was nearly two weeks after Price introduced the HIP Act,
which, because everyone knew it was a dead letter, had no impact
on Zimmer Biomet's stock price anyway.
In other words, there is no story here, much less a scandal.
The fact that CNN pretended that there was one says nothing
about Price's ethics. It does, however, say plenty about the
blatant partisan bias of today's "independent" press.
NOTE: This was updated to include the New York Times story about