Newt Gingrich: The True Cost of the Collusion Lie | Opinion

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies about the Justice Department's FY2020 budget request before the House Appropriations Committee's Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 09, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The collusion lie will go down in history as one of the strangest distortions of reality to dominate the American political scene. For more than two and a half years, the national establishment and news media were fixated on a "truth" which turned out to be false.

In some ways, this national psychosis is reminiscent of the popular madness which would run through medieval societies from time to time. Think of the flagellants going from city to city beating themselves to exorcise their sins. Think of the madness which surrounded Friar Girolamo Savonarola when he ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498. In our own country, think of the hysteria of the Salem witchcraft trials in 1692 and 1693, when more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft. Fourteen women and five men were found guilty and hanged. A sixth man was pressed to death with stones.

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles terrified millions of Americans with a fake news broadcast reporting aliens had invaded Earth. Based on the H.G. Wells book, The War of the Worlds, Welles presented it so vividly that many Americans panicked thinking they were listening to a genuine newscast of a real invasion from outer space.

The difference between the fake collusion myth and Welles's frightening broadcast was that by October 31, 1938, Americans understood the story of the invasion was a fiction. Conversely, the liberal media, Democrats, and anti-Trump Republicans have been able to keep their collusion falsehood alive for two and a half years.

The biggest cost of this big lie project is the diversion of attention from all the real threats to America.

China has been launching multiple strategic offensives that threaten to create a Chinese global hegemony in our lifetime.

Putin has been expanding Russian influence via an alliance with China, an economic alliance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an extended reach into Syria, an alliance with Iran, and continued aggression in Ukraine.

In our backyard, the Monroe Doctrine has been shattered. The Chinese and Russians are jointly propping up Nicolás Maduro's dictatorship in Venezuela in open defiance of warnings from American leaders. We may presently face a choice of accepting defeat in Venezuela – with major consequences for our prestige throughout Latin America – or dramatically escalating our efforts to force Maduro out of power. This could potentially include the decisive use of American military forces.

For two and a half years, the news media has enthusiastically avoided an increasingly dangerous world by reporting on a false story which fit their ideological needs.

Consider the volume of coverage given to fake news about a nonexistent collusion.

Starting with Inauguration Day 2017 through the delivery of the Special Counsel's report last month, the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news broadcasts produced 2,284 minutes of 'collusion' coverage.

MSNBC had more than 4,200 posts mentioning the Mueller probe when searched. Between February 20, 2017, and March 31, 2017, Rachel Maddow spent 53 percent of her broadcast on Russian collusion.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC combined wrote 8,507 articles citing Robert Mueller's investigation since May 2017 – nearly 13 articles every single day.

As an indicator of the intensity of focus on the fake collusion crisis, consider the chyrons running across the screen day after day. The Pudding has put together an extensive data tool for tracking these graphics between August 25, 2017, and January 21, 2018.

Michael Cohen got 199 bottom third reports on Fox. MSNBC gave him 333, and CNN featured him 435 times.

Robert Mueller, busily pursuing what he would later report was a nonexistent collusion between President Trump and Russia, got even heavier coverage.

Fox referred to him 2,469 times, MSNBC gave him 9,096 references, and CNN chimed in with 4,326 reports on the screen.

The most interesting example of focus on fake news was the reporting in chyrons about Russia.

Remember, Russia is still acting aggressively in Ukraine, is involved in Venezuela and Syria, and is working to get Western Europe dependent on Russian natural gas. However, these historic challenges were not the primary focus of an amazing amount of news attention given to Russia.

Fox put references to Russia on the screen 3,415 times. CNN 6,012 times. MSNBC 11,158 times. This is a total of 20,583 references to Russia on screen between the three cable news channels.

And what word was most closely associated with Russian in all these appearances? Fox tied Russian to FBI. CNN and MSNBC both tied Russian to Trump.

Sadly, the fact that there has been no collusion has not led the news media to turn to the serious threats which endanger America. (We should demand to know when Mueller reached his conclusion – and how long he let President Trump govern with falsehoods surrounding him – an act of amazing irresponsibility by Mueller).

The desperation of the news media to avoid the serious dangers that are building around the world was also captured in the intensity of coverage given to the Jussie Smollett case.

It is astonishing that a case of deliberate dishonesty by an anti-Trump actor could get as much attention as it did. Once again, trivia crowded out the serious threats which could endanger America. Networks spent 101 minutes of coverage on the Smollett story before it was revealed as a farce.

Unfortunately, it's clear the Democrats will continue investigating Trump rather than investigating China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, or any of the threats which are growing as we ignore them.

Likewise, the liberal media will continue to focus on domestic trivia. In the value structure of the liberal media, a former vice president's hugging habit is worth far more coverage than China's breakthrough in getting Italy—a NATO member—to contract out two major seaports to Chinese management.

If America fails to identify the growing threats to our national security (and thus fails to respond effectively) future historians may look back on the shallowness and myopia of the news media as a major factor.

President John F. Kennedy wrote Why England Slept because he was trying to explain the British failure to recognize how dangerous Adolf Hitler was in the 1930s.

Someday, someone may write "Why America Slept." A major part of it might be devoted to the fake news and the shallowness of the American news media in failing to report on reality to the American people.

This might be the greatest cost of the collusion lie.

Newt Gingrich was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is now the host of the Newt's World podcast and the author of Trump's America: The Truth About Our Nation's Great Comeback. Follow him on Twitter: @NewtGingrich.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​​​