Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, is a flawed man with nothing left to lose, charting a path to redemption by finally coming clean about crimes and misdeeds allegedly committed by the president of the United States. Either that, or he’s a cheat and a crook who can’t be trusted, who’s already pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and isn’t above doing it again if it’ll help him land a book deal.
These are the two interpretations of Cohen’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee that manifested online Wednesday. As they’ve done so many times before—during the Benghazi investigation, during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings—the internet’s tribal factions retreated to their corners over the course of the day to tell utterly opposite stories about the much-anticipated hearings and what they revealed about Cohen and Trump.
On social media and on partisan sites, the conversation split into like-minded echo chambers, with each side parroting the talking points of their party’s members who were sitting in the hearing room. What emerged was a sort of cacophonous bizarro world that would have seemed implausible just a year ago: Conservative pundits and political operatives, including Trump’s own children, worked overtime to discredit a man who spent 10 years as a close confidante to Trump, and until last June, served as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Liberals, meanwhile, spent their 240 characters sticking up for and even applauding the humility of a man who’ll head to prison in May for, among other things, lying to Congress to defend Trump and making hush money payments on his behalf.
In a world of divergent media diets and carefully curated filter bubbles, just which story you heard depends mostly on your timeline.