After weeks of doing their master's bidding and declaring that questions about 68-year-old Hillary Clinton's health are inappropriate, illegitimate and merely the stuff of conspiracy theories, American journalists were forced to finally confront the issue they'd tried to bury when the Democratic nominee fainted during a 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York City.
That doesn't mean they didn't try to help her -- several reports described the Manhattan morning as "sweltering," even though New York's heat wave broke the day before and temperatures that morning topped out in the comfortable high 70s.
And if we were depending on those reporters to do their jobs, we never would have known Clinton fainted and stumbled as her handlers tried to whisk her off, unseen. It was a regular person with a camera phone -- not a member of the media -- who captured those images of Clinton almost hitting the sidewalk (video below).
But now the cat's out of the bag, and journalists who have deputized themselves as members of Clinton's press team can't ignore the video, nor can they insist that the health of a 68-year-old presidential candidate is of no concern to voters.
Many of those same reporters generated hundreds of stories about then-70-year-old John McCain's health in 2008, when he ran for president against then-Sen. Barack Obama.
As if that wasn't bad enough for the Clinton campaign, now she's been caught bending the truth again. When Clinton had coughing fits earlier in the week, she attributed them to allergies, and stuck with that excuse until her campaign claimed she had something like heatstroke at the 9/11 memorial.
"During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter's apartment, and is feeling much better," campaign spokesman Nick Merrill wrote in a statement released to reporters early in the afternoon.
Then Clinton herself emerged from her daughter's $10 million penthouse several hours later, waving and smiling.
"I'm feeling great," she said. "It's a beautiful day in New York."
It wasn't until early that evening that the campaign admitted the Democratic presidential candidate had been diagnosed with pneumonia -- on Sept. 9. If Clinton had been diagnosed several days earlier, and her campaign knew that, why did the public hear that she simply "overheated"? Why the earlier insistence that the former secretary of state had allergies?
Why didn't Clinton admit she was sick? Rather than an admission of weakness, it probably would have endeared her to some voters. It presented a rare opportunity to remind the electorate that Clinton is human too and deals with the same frustrations and problems we all do, but nonetheless soldiered through several appearances.
"Clinton's campaign appears to have, at best, withheld information from the public and -- at worst -- misled them by aggressively batting down 'conspiracy theories' that her coughing fit was anything more than allergies," NBC's Andrea Mitchell wrote. "Opponents are already seeing the incident as proof of their claims that Clinton has been hiding health issues. And others may now be more incredulous of the campaign's statements on her health."
And if some readers feel I'm being too hard on the press, it's worth revisiting the statements and headlines aimed at controlling the Clinton health story before it forced its way into the American consciousness.
CNN's Brian Stelter doubled down on claims that questions about Clinton's health have mostly been the fabricated stuff of "conspiracy theories which we should not give oxygen to" during an appearance on the network.
That statement comes a week after another CNN analyst declared on air that questions about Clinton's health shouldn't have a place in the reporting of "legitimate" media outlets.
Farhad Manjoo, a tech columnist for The New York Times, said Google should suppress search results about Clinton's health, tweeting on Aug. 21 that the search giant "shouldn't give quarter to conspiracy theorists."
Two days later, The Washington Post ran a story headlined "Don’t believe everything you read about Hillary Clinton’s health on Google," again attributing questions to a sketchy cast of conspiracy theorists. That same day, Vox ran a story about the "bonkers conspiracy theory" and the "baseless accusations" that have dogged the Clinton campaign, while Vice assured its readers that the stories were spawned from "dubious tales spread on the right-wing corners of the internet."
Policy Mic's Stephanie Gaskell "fact checked" questions about Clinton's health, cherry-picking the most outlandish claims from the internet and debunking them like a true Clinton surrogate.
In New York magazine, Margaret Hartmann painted concerns about Clinton's health as the handiwork of Twitter trolls, Trump surrogates and Fox News' Sean Hannity.
In Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald attributed questions about Clinton's health to the "lunatic fringe," "craven media figures" and "pretend journalists pumping out propaganda to scared, foolish people," eventually 'sperging out over Sean Hannity by writing "F--- you, Sean."
In The Huffington Post, Melissa Jeltsen tied questions about Clinton's health to racism, the ancient Greeks and a quack doctor who made a sexist statement in 1982. The natural conclusion, she wrote, is that sexism is behind the health concerns.
HuffPo followed that act by firing columnist David Seaman for writing two stories about Clinton's health, and deleting the archived stories to ensure none of the site's readers encountered anything vaguely negative about Clinton.
And then there's Clinton herself, who compared health questions to the stuff of supermarket tabloids.
"I don't know why they are saying this. On the one hand, it's part of the wacky strategy, just say all these crazy things and maybe you can get some people to believe you," she said. "On the other hand, it just absolutely makes no sense. I don't go around questioning Donald Trump's health. As far as I can tell, he's as healthy as a horse."
Again, the story about Clinton's collapse after leaving the 9/11 memorial wouldn't exist if a passerby didn't happen to nab video of Clinton at just the right time. When so many reporters are playing gatekeeper and attributing the story to deranged lunatics and UFO enthusiasts, it's worth asking why there's been such a massive effort to suppress this story, and whether or not American voters still have the whole truth.
Sources: Newsweek, Farhad Manjoo/Twitter, The Washington Post, Vox, Vice, The Daily Caller, The Hill, ThinkProgress, NBC News, Huffington Post, Real Clear Politics, CNN, New York / Photo credit: YouTube