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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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“Fake News”, Real Danger, Redux

About a month ago, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) briefly made big news when he appeared to announce support for the House’s nascent impeachment inquiry. Yet hours later, Amodei wanted “backsies” and pretended he never said such a thing.

He’s since declared those early reports to be “fake news”, even though they’re still on the record. So today, we might as well talk about the curse of “fake news” that continues to haunt us.

“If it’s proven you were using government agencies to try to put your finger on the scale of an election, then I don’t care who the president is, I don’t think that’s right.” 
– Rep. Mark Amodei, during a conference call with reporters on September 27
Photo by Andrew Davey

Following the revelation of President Donald Trump’s campaign to coerce the Ukrainian government to open a criminal investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) opened an impeachment inquiry on Trump, though this also came after many journalists spent many months (and for some of them, years) investigating Trump’s deportation regime, his penchant for grabbing women regardless of whether they provide consent, his efforts to grab more power for himself, his “business empire” that’s always curiously close to our government, and his reliance on international oligarchs and corrupt foreign governments to prop up his “business empire”.

During those first hours of the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Mark Amodei surprised national pundits and Republican Party leaders by suggesting to local reporters that “he will support President Donald Trump’s impeachment if the facts support it”. During that conference call with local reporters, Amodei even said, “If it’s proven you were using government agencies to try to put your finger on the scale of an election, then I don’t care who the president is, I don’t think that’s right.”

Within hours of this call and the initial reports being published, Republicans near and far rushed to condemn Amodei for daring to suggest Trump may have committed impeachable offenses. And since Amodei had already begun to contend with (thus far, unfounded) rumors that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) may challenge him in a future Republican primary, Amodei essentially attempted to rewrite history by suggesting all the reports documenting Amodei’s own words are “fake news”.

“It’s a conclusion, not a question.”
– Rep. Mark Amodei, speaking to CNN reporter Manu Raju on October 28

So why are we talking about a Republican backbencher whose vote almost certainly won’t be decisive in the House’s full floor vote to advance the impeachment inquiry this Thursday? Not only is Mark Amodei Northern Nevada’s Republican backbencher, but his awkward place in the larger Trump impeachment story has revealed to Nevadans and Americans elsewhere how the Republican Party is handling these serious allegations surrounding Trump.

While speaking with CNN reporter Manu Raju last night, Amodei essentially taunted Raju with a Capitol Hill version of the “I know you are, but what am I?” children’s playground insult. “Guess what? It isn’t over, and you already know what you think,” Amodei insisted as Raju asked him about Trump’s demands that Chinese and Ukrainian governments “get dirt” on the Bidens. As Raju kept asking, Amodei retorted, “It’s a conclusion, not a question.”

Raju kept asking, but Amodei attempted another linguistics play: “If you don’t want to interview me, interview yourself.” Again, keep in mind he said this on camera to CNN just a month after he told Nevada reporters on a conference call, “If it’s proven you were using government agencies to try to put your finger on the scale of an election, then I don’t care who the president is, I don’t think that’s right.” 

“Fake” shouldn’t be news, yet here we are again.

At least more in the national media are finally taking these charges against Trump more seriously, but I still remember when Bill Barr released a letter and a critical mass of media outlets ran “Mueller Exonerates Trump!” headlines that were thoroughly debunked even before the Mueller Report was released. Even now, Trump’s allies are using their media access to accuse Alexander Vindman, the Purple Heart recipient and resident Ukraine expert on the National Security Council’s staff, of “espionage” and “disloyalty” for testifying to the House’s impeachment inquiry and confirming that the Trump administration has indeed tried to force the Ukrainian government to “investigate” in a way that boosts Trump’s political fortunes.

Even now, coverage of Trump’s scandals and the subsequent impeachment inquiry is often defined by the continuing stream of “interviews with Trump voters in diners” and “‘hot takes’ on how hyper-partisan the process is”. And even now, we still see pundits left, right, and center treat this like some “sordid spy story” rather than a national security crisis.

Every so often, we hear the question asked: Who really cares about any of this Trump-Russia stuff? Every so often, I have to remind myself that as long as we in the media treat it as a giant political circus, the larger public are more likely to see all of it as a giant political circus.

As I wrote back in April, it’s imperative that the media do a better job at distinguishing between relevant news and frivolous fiction. Fortunately, we can see between Mark Amodei’s real-time attempts to spin his own impeachment flip-flop’s and the heavy documentation of the evidence on Trump that there is value in real journalism. Unfortunately, Americans still have to sift through a whole lot of fluff to get to the facts. And as (actually) fake news continues to seep into real headlines, we all need to do a better job of making clear what’s real and what’s not.

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