President Joe Biden offered admiration and praise for the American media in a statement Monday recognizing World Press Freedom Day just a few days after major outlets published false information pertaining to the Justice Department’s investigation of former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
“Journalists uncover the truth, check the abuse of power, and demand transparency from those in power. They are indispensable to the functioning of democracy. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists and media workers have been on the front lines to keep the public informed, at significant risk to their own health,” said Biden. “And, at a time when the truth is increasingly under attack, our need for accurate, fact-based reporting, open public conversation, and accountability has never been greater.
“It is incumbent on all of us to counter these threats to a free and independent media, including physical risk and arbitrary detention,” the statement continued. “The Committee to Protect Journalists found that, in 2020, a record number of journalists were imprisoned globally.
“Online abuse and harassment of journalists, particularly women and journalists of color, continues to increase. Authoritarians are striving to undermine the free press, manipulate the truth, or spread disinformation even as a shrinking news industry is creating more and more ‘news deserts,’ areas without local media, around the world. These attacks are nothing less than a threat to democracies everywhere,” Biden continued.
“Today, on World Press Freedom Day, we celebrate the fierce bravery of journalists everywhere. We recognize the integral role a free press plays in building prosperous, resilient and free societies. And we recommit to protecting and promoting free, independent, and diverse media around the world,” he added.
The statement and recognition of the media’s “accurate, fact-based reporting” come on the heels of retractions by major media outlets on Saturday for botching a story regarding Guiliani, former President Donald Trump’s one-time personal lawyer. Giuliani is under investigation by the Justice Department over allegations he illegally lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs without registering as a foreign agent, which the former NYC mayor and federal prosecutor denies.
The outlets claimed that the FBI contacted Giuliani at some point to inform him and One America News that they were targets of Russian disinformation campaigns. But Giuliani immediately disputed that and challenged The New York Times, the Washington Post, and NBC News to produce sources who made the false claim.
Instead, the outlets all issued mea culpas.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) May 3, 2021
“An earlier version of this story, published Thursday, incorrectly reported that One America News was warned by the FBI that it was the target of a Russian influence operation,” the Post noted over the weekend. “That version also said the FBI had provided a similar warning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, which he has since disputed. This version has been corrected to remove assertions that OAN and Giuliani received the warnings.”
“An earlier version of this article misstated whether Rudolph W. Giuliani received a formal warning from the F.B.I. about Russian disinformation. Mr. Giuliani did not receive such a so-called defensive briefing,” noted the Times.
NBC News said it relied on one source for its story but a second source “now says the briefing was only prepared for Giuliani and not delivered to him, in part over concerns it might complicate the criminal investigation of Giuliani. As a result, the premise and headline of the article below have been changed to reflect the corrected information.”
The Biden administration’s relationship with, and view of, the media is much different than that of Trump, who was often accused of having an adversarial relationship though he was relentlessly attacked in an unprecedented manner.
Trump also characterized the media as “enemies of the people” for major outlets’ often-inaccurate details in stories meant to damage his administration, leading him to invent the phrase “fake news.”