Today a frighteningly large portion of the U.S. population perceives objective, fact-based reporting as subjective, politically motivated, and “fake.” That is, made up. A recent study from the Knight Foundation revealed that 40 percent of Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.” Yes: accurate stories are fake. These people openly admit to dismissing what they acknowledge as the truth…as not true.
And you wonder why Jeff Flake, a GOP Senator, went ballistic on the Senate floor this week about Trump undermining the free press?
This is the context in which Trump delivered (via a blog on the GOP website) his ridiculous Fake News awards Wednesday night. (The link didn’t work for about an hour.)
I’m going to give a rundown of these “fake” stories Trump cited, but first, a definition of fake. It means something consciously devised to be not genuine, to deceive; a counterfeit or sham. None of the stories on Trump’s list were conscious efforts to deceive. They were mistakes.
If you’re confused, here’s a simple sentence to help you remember: Making mistakes isn’t the same as making things up.
On to the awards.
Here’s a staggeringly obvious misrepresentation to begin with: They weren’t even AWARDS. It was an enumerated list of stories but not in winning order: The last award was “last but not least.”
1. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.
This was an op-ed. It wasn’t a report by the New York Times, and it wasn’t a claim of truth or fact; it was a poorly thought-through prediction, therefore it’s a matter of whether it was later proved right or wrong. This means it wasn’t “fake.” What’s more, we can’t even say with full honestly that Krugman was wrong, though in the short term he’s clearly been way off. But Trump’s presidency isn’t over. (Though I wouldn’t be foolish enough to claim the economy won’t recover from a Trump presidency.)
2. ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.
Ross did in fact make an objectively wrong report: He said Trump asked Michael Flynn to
contact the Russians during the campaign. ABC apologized and said Ross’s report, which he later explained was based on a conversation he had with an anonymous source, hadn’t met their editorial standards. The error was pretty damn big, and it was consequential for the markets, and Ross got suspended for a month.
But I must add here that no one reported that Trump didn’t ask Flynn to contact the Russians. We simply don’t know whether he did or not, and can’t claim that we know for fact he did. That was Ross’s error. We might very well see evidence in the future that Trump did direct Flynn to make contact with the Russians. I’m willing to go on record here that we will see such evidence. Maybe I’ll win an “award” next year if I’m wrong, though the sequel is never as good as the original.
3. CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.
CNN falsely reported that Donald Trump Jr. was contacted by Wikileaks on September 4, 2016, about these hacked documents, from the DNC. If true, this meant DJTJ knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was going to dump the docs, which it did nine days later. Turns out CNN got that date wrong: The contact came on September 14, the day after the dump. CNN corrected the report when its error was revealed.
Guess who corrected CNN? FOX? DJTJ? Trump himself? Infowars? WikiLeaks? No: The Washington Post. FAKE NEWS! Right? (See number five.)
4. TIME FALSELY reported that President Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.
TIME reporter Zeke Miller sent out a report to the White House press pool (that is, not on TIME itself) to notify them the Trump folks took the bust of MLK out of the Oval Office. Another pool reporter then reported the story and amplified it. It was an embarrassing but honest mistake, and Miller corrected it quickly. He’d looked but hadn’t seen the bust.
Mistakes aren’t fake.
5. Washington Post FALSELY reported the President’s massive sold-out rally in Pensacola, Florida, was empty. Dishonest reporter showed picture of empty arena HOURS before crowd started pouring in.
Okay, this one is a bit overblown. First, it wasn’t a Washington Post report. The Post reporter who tweeted the picture, Dave Weigel, sent it from his personal account. It doesn’t reflect the editorial standards of the Post itself, though it sure does look bad for Weigel. (It also wasn’t an empty arena.) Weigel deleted his post 20 minutes later, adding it was “Very fair to call me out.”
6. CNN FALSELY edited a video to make it appear President Trump defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister. Japanese prime minister actually led the way with the feeding.
First, who the hell is writing this stuff? Sure sounds like Trump. The video wasn’t “falsely edited.” It was cut in a way that made Trump look stupid. Also, it didn’t make him look “defiant.” Trump can’t even admit the video made him look dumb.
Also, why the hell is this even important? Is this the best they could come up with?
First of all, this was a viral video from a press pool that CNN picked up and ran with. Lots of other networks did this, too. The video did show the President dumping the whole box of food into a koi pond in a way that, as compared to Abe, made him look like the ugly American. Trump was simply having a little fun, and Abe laughed at the joke. As Vox pointed out, the whole article on CNN did mention Abe appeared to have dumped his food out first. Here’s the original CNN video. Here’s more context from The Guardian.
7. CNN FALSELY reported about Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with a Russian, but retracted it due to a “significant breakdown in process.”
CNN got trashed for this one, and the mistake was so public that the network fired three reporters, one of whom was a Pulitzer Prize-winner. Note, though, that the network never said the story was incorrect. And guess what? Scaramucci himself acknowledged the day after the meeting, on Bloomberg TV, and you can watch the damn thing right here if you want, that the meeting took place. The dispute about the CNN story, it seems, revolves around how inappropriate the meeting had been and whether certain elements of the government were investigating it.
I’ll add here that CNN never said anyone was “investigating” the meeting, a technical term. It said the Senate and Treasury were “looking into”/”examining” it. This is definitely playing fast and loose with language, and I’m glad those reporters got canned for it. So was Scaramucci, who, far from attacking CNN, accepted the apology and threw some props to the network for its “classy move.”
8. Newsweek FALSELY reported that Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda did not shake President Trump’s hand.
Who besides Donald Trump gives a shit? And why does Donald Trump give a shit? This is insane and I can’t believe I have to write about it.
Okay, turns out this was yet another viral video a whole lot of outlets picked up. The REAL NEWS was that Kornhauser-Duda shook Melania’s hand, then shook Trump’s hand. Newsweek, LIKE EVERY OTHER OUTLET, later corrected its mistake, saying there was “no apparent swipe at the U.S. president.”
9. CNN FALSELY reported that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute President Trump’s claim that he was told he is not under investigation.
CNN, as cited on the FAKE NEWS AWARDS BLOG, said that “one source” told them Comey was expected to tell senators his conversations with Trump were nuanced, and that Trump had drawn his own conclusion that he wasn’t under investigation. CNN’s source got it wrong. They obviously corrected the story after it was clearly wrong: Comey didn’t say that; but he did say he told Trump he wasn’t personally under investigation.
At the time.
10. The New York Times FALSELY claimed on the front page that the Trump administration had hidden a climate report.
This claim itself is actually, wait for it, false. The Times headline read “Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report.” It didn’t say the administration hid the report.
Here are some more quotes from that article, emphasis mine. First paragraph:
WASHINGTON — The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.
“The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.“
Another scientist involved in the process, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he and others were concerned that it would be suppressed.“
The paper even gave the administration a chance to go on record! “The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately return calls or respond to emails requesting comment on Monday night.”
The report was published.
11. And last, but not least: “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!
Trump didn’t cite any story or outlet.
Also, and you can’t make this up, Trump’s claim here was Politifact’s lie of the year.
Which leads me to Trump, who is himself a leading purveyor of fake news. He’s a liar, and everyone knows he’s a liar. Even his pals at Wikileaks:
And by the Washington Post’s impressive running tally, the President has made over two thousand false or misleading claims in his first year in office. If you even it out, that’s more than five such claims per day. What’s even more remarkable is he’s stepped up the pace: In his first hundred days he averaged 4.9 a day; he’s upped that average to 5.6 now.
And if you judge the magnitude of a lie by its global reach and effect, Donald Trump has just in the last year become easily the biggest liar in human history. But here’s the uncomfortable truth: It doesn’t matter. It’s just a sad fact of American life that the President is a pathological liar and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
But I won’t go so far as Jimmy Kimmel did in a recent segment and say these are 2,000 lies. In fact, to eschew the word “lie” in favor of the more accurate “false and misleading claim” is evidence of the Post’s rigid journalistic (non-fake) standards. A lie has a narrow and specific definition, which is, in short, knowingly and willfully using a false statement in an attempt to deceive. A lot of what the Post calls Trump’s “false and misleading” claims either aren’t conscious attempts to deceive or are just plain old bullshit. Or, and this is the tricky part, Trump’s true knowledge and intent often can’t be proven.
Even if Trump doesn’t know or believe some of these claims to be false, that doesn’t make it much better. That means, to paraphrase so many people in his own administration, he’s a moron.
And isn’t deceiving yourself also lying?
But Trump does lie, intentionally. For instance, he knows three to five million Americans didn’t vote illegally, a claim which, like more than 70 others so far, he’s repeated more than three times. That’s a lie.
And does he still believe this false statement, which he’s also made more than three times, including this week, is actually true? “We can build the wall in one year and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about.”
No, we can’t build the wall in one year. And it will cost at least $20 billion, a number Trump threw out in a tweet YESTERDAY MORNING.
What about the Seth Rich conspiracy theory? A FOX News contributor filed a lawsuit this spring that the network had actually coordinated with the Trump administration, including first getting Trump’s own approval, to push this bullshit story, which is a disgusting lie that caused the Rich family untold anguish.
Trump has a top eleven. I’m exhausted. Here are two thousand. Truth to power.