Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's chief legal analyst, has apologized for promoting during the presidential campaign the notion that Donald Trump's thoroughly documented history as a racist, fraud, bully, sexual predator and pathological liar was somehow cancelled out by Hillary Clinton's used of a private email server while secretary of state.
Okay, that's one apology down and a thousand or so to go.
This is because Toobin had plenty of company in peddling the False Equivalence canard, an insidious and perhaps the most destructive way the mainstream media gave Trump a free ride -- including billions of dollars in free around-the-clock coverage of his campaign rallies -- until it was way too late to correct this deplorable imbalance and begin reporting honestly about the profound threat Trump represented to the republic as a potential president, which of course has been more than realized.
At the end of the day, or rather on Election Day, it turned out that Clinton's worst enemies beyond Vladimir Putin, James Comey and her very own self were people like Toobin.
His mea culpa came on Episode 26 of comedian Larry Wilmore's "Black on the Air" podcast, which listened to by a fraction of the millions of people who have watched Toobin on CNN's prime-time news programming since 2002.
During a discussion of presidential politics, Wilmore argued that Clinton was the victim of a "coordinated attack" by Republicans. Toobin agreed, citing "all that bogus stuff about the Clinton Foundation" and alluding to the bogus Uranium One story.
"And I hold myself somewhat responsible for that," continued Toobin. "I think there was a lot of false equivalence in the 2016 campaign. That every time we said something, pointed out something about Donald Trump — whether it was his business interests, or grab 'em by the pussy, we felt like, 'Oh, we gotta, like, talk about — we gotta say something bad about Hillary.' And I think it led to a sense of false equivalence that was misleading, and I regret my role in doing that."
Yes indeedy, Jeffrey.
As I wrote on November 7, the day before the election:
[The news media has] completely chucked its responsibility to be a truth-imparting watchdog in covering a presidential race that has been even more important than the 2008 watershed. This, if you hadn't noticed, is because the very foundations of American democracy have been at stake. As has the credibility of the media itself in an era of subterranean expectations, hyper-intense partisanship and seismic changes as technology has hastened the transition from print to digital and video and unfiltered social media grabs an ever large share of our already short attention spans. . . .
The hoary media model of giving balanced treatment to major party candidates that has been hammered into generations of reporters and editors as the holy grail of their profession collapses under the weight of sheer ludicrousness when one candidate repeatedly and unashamedly lies when not trying to play the media like a cheap violin, and succeeds at that a lot more often than not.
Trump was the first media-created candidate and he took full and eager advantage of all the free publicity early on ("It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," chirped network CEO Leslie Moonves) until the spigot was turned off much too late in the game.
The media had gilded Trump's celebrity credentials for years, but it never really had the power to stop him once he slithered to the nomination, let alone its belated effort to correct the record.
Only those Vichy Republicans could have done that, and of course they never tried. This should not be conflated with absolving the media of its responsibility to get real about a man who came into the campaign a known quantity, especially after the media had been hoodwinked for the better part of eight years by George W. Bush and his helpmates.
A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy cited by The Washington Post found that in the campaign’s final months, the media's overall coverage performed pretty much as Toobin described it to Wilmore.
"When journalists can't, or won't, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there's something seriously amiss," wrote Thomas Patterson of the Shorenstein study. "And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there's a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans."
Perfect examples include the post-election incarnation of those Vichy Republicans who have mounted a frenzied effort to push back against Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller with a litany of phony accusations and doctored documents while giving the dead Clinton email server story a few more whacks.
"Well, America says, 'Apology accepted,' " Wilmore joked following Toobin's bout of candor.
To his credit, Toobin has been anything but soft on Trump over the past year, calling his firing of FBI Director James Comey a "grotesque abuse of power by the president of the United States. This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies," among other things.
But a full-throated apology on CNN has not been forthcoming, and until when and if Toobin does so, perhaps risking a big paycheck in the process, his once bright star will remain dim.