Jake Tapper doesn’t want you to know the name of the so-called “whistleblower” who caused the impeachment drama. Of course, the identity of Eric Ciaramella was never much of a secret — lots of people in D.C. knew that the former National Security Council staffer was the reputed source for California Rep. Adam Schiff’s investigation of President Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ciaramella’s name has been in many news stories in recent months: “Report: Anti-Trump Complainant Eric Ciaramella Worked With Brennan, Biden, and DNC Operative Chalupa” (American Greatness, Oct. 30, 2019) and “Open Society Emails Show Anti-Trump CIA ‘Whistleblower’ Eric Ciaramella Was Updated on George Soros’s Personal Ukraine Activities” (Gateway Pundit, Nov. 17, 2019), to cite just a couple. But CNN viewers have never heard Ciaramella identified, and Jake Tapper evidently wants to prevent anyone else from reporting this fact, either.
Wednesday afternoon, Tapper tweeted, “A Trump campaign official just RTed a tweet containing the name of the alleged whistleblower.” Tapper’s third-grade tattletale behavior was in response to Trump campaign deputy communications director Matt Wolking retweeting investigative journalist Paul Sperry, with a photo showing Ciaramella meeting with Ukrainian officials in 2015.
Why doesn’t Tapper want anyone to see that photo? Perhaps because it shows Ciaramella taking notes while seated between Liz Zentos, who was Eastern Europe director on the National Security Council at the time, and Michael Carpenter, a foreign-policy adviser to then-Vice President Joe Biden. Sperry pointed out that, in January 2018, Carpenter was seated beside Biden at the Council for Foreign Relations event when Biden notoriously boasted about using U.S. aid as leverage to force Ukraine to fire a prosecutor. In other words, the photo illustrates what Trump’s defenders have been saying for months about Schiff’s investigation: that it is a partisan witch hunt in which the alleged “whistleblower” is part of a cabal of Democrat loyalists with close ties to Biden. This has become an issue in the Senate trial, in which Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul attempted to ask about connections between Eric Ciaramella and his former NSC colleague Sean Misko, who “joined Schiff’s committee staff in August, the same month the whistleblower submitted his complaint.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refused to admit Paul’s question in the trial, but why was Tapper playing Twitter tattletale against a Trump campaign staffer in an apparent effort to suppress the name Eric Ciaramella? As Professor Glenn Reynolds has often said, the media in general have become “Democratic Party operatives with bylines.” Their coverage is organized on the basis of what will help Democrats win elections and advance the party’s agenda, and anything contrary to that organizing principle, they consider not newsworthy. Tapper and his network — now consistently third place in the cable-news ratings — are a perfect example of how this principle operates. The decline of CNN illustrates why this one-sided political bias is bad for the news business and ultimately also bad for Democrats.
How did Donald Trump get elected, after all? During the 2016 presidential campaign, CNN went so all in on its support of Hillary Clinton that its coverage amounted to a massive contribution-in-kind to her campaign. The bias was so obvious during the Democratic primaries that supporters of Hillary’s rival Bernie Sanders dubbed CNN the “Clinton News Network.” Why did CNN treat Sanders so unfairly? Wasn’t it because they viewed Clinton as the more “electable” candidate in the general election? That confidence in Clinton’s electability, widely shared in the so-called “mainstream” media, arguably fed into the over-confidence within the Clinton campaign, which clearly underestimated Trump’s appeal to blue-collar voters in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The media in 2016 conveyed the idea that Trump couldn’t possibly be elected, but apparently 62.9 million voters didn’t get the memo.
The benefit of having a majority of the new media acting as Democratic propaganda operatives is diminished if (a) Democrats make the mistake of believing their own publicity, or (b) the public becomes aware of the unbalanced nature of what is being presented as “news.” In 2016, biased coverage led Democrats to underestimate the appeal of Trump’s populist message, and Trump made it a habit to call attention to how biased the media really is.
If Tapper and his CNN colleagues want to treat Eric Ciaramella’s identity as a secret, they are free to do so. Others, however, are free not only to name Ciaramella but also to point out that CNN is deliberately refusing to report important information relevant to the impeachment trial. Yet in contradiction to basic First Amendment principles, anti-Trump media types like Tapper evidently wish to silence their critics. What did Tapper imagine would be the effect of his tattling on Matt Wolking? Did he suppose the Trump campaign would fire Wolking? Or did he hope that perhaps Twitter’s own censorship squads (the Orwellian “Trust and Safety Council”) would suppress Wolking’s Twitter account?
This attitude — an apparent desire to silence anyone who doesn’t share their political agenda — is what makes the anti-Trump media not only “the enemy of the people,” as Trump has called them, but also their own worst enemy. By the blatant obviousness of their bias, journalists like Tapper undermine their own credibility and inspire a sense of public paranoia. If Americans can’t trust “the most trusted name in news” (which CNN claims to be), doesn’t this feed into the belief that elite insiders exercise nefarious influence in our national affairs? Such distrust of elites explains not only right-wing populist support for Trump but also left-wing populist support for Bernie Sanders. The truth that CNN is trying to suppress, after all, involves Hunter Biden’s $83,000 a month job with the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma — and Trump’s effort to convince Ukraine to investigate that deal is exactly why there is an impeachment trial going on in the Senate.
It is entirely legal to publish the name Eric Ciaramella as a crucial link in the chain of events that led us to this point. After Tapper tried to scold Wolking on Twitter, Wolking fired right back, and soon Twitter was filled with mentions of Ciaramella’s name (see, for example, Juanita Broaddrick’s tweet, which got more than 6,000 retweets in 24 hours). Wolking went on to explain that the belief that it is illegal to name Ciaramella is a “myth created by Adam Schiff and his allies in the media to prevent the American people from learning about the origins of the Democrats’ totally partisan impeachment sham.”
Reports indicate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes he has the votes to bring this impeachment to a swift conclusion. But the problems caused by bias in the media will continue, and Democrats will suffer most of anyone because of those problems. Simple question: Why did Nancy Pelosi believe this impeachment would succeed? Isn’t it because she believed the media would help her drive Trump from office? But she couldn’t get a single House Republican to vote for impeachment, and the Senate trial has been a debacle for Democrats. Headlines like “Schiff Throws Temper Tantrum About His Staff Getting ‘Smeared’ by Reports on the ‘Whistleblower’ ” (PJ Media) and “Top 8 Reasons Trump Already Won Impeachment” (The Federalist) suggest what a disaster Pelosi led her party into. But CNN’s dwindling audience has no idea, because Jake Tapper won’t tell them. Who will tell them? The president of the United States, that’s who.
The massive crowds turn out for Trump’s rallies cheer when he criticizes the “fake news” media. Impeachment actually appears to have made Trump more popular. Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics noted this week, “Trump’s job approval is now the highest it has been in our average since Feb. 5, 2017.” Does anyone think this trend will be reversed if, somehow, Democrats can get enough GOP senators to cross the aisle and vote to drag out the impeachment trial beyond this weekend? Maybe Jake Tapper thinks so, but he seems to believe his job is to report only what Democrats want to hear — and the most important news, he never reports at all. Keep it up, Jake, and you’ll get lots of credit when Trump gets reelected in November.