It is becoming increasingly clear as various media watch-dog organizations meta-analyze media coverage of the Trump administration, that anti-Trump tunnel vision is impairing the judgement and perspective of journalists.
More than a few reporters and journalists have overlooked accurate sourcing and journalistic ethics in their rush to frame every political story and current event as negatively as possible for Donald Trump.
Especially popular news stories about heavily covered topics have often mislead readers about the actions and motivations of President Trump and his administration.
FBI transcripts were released last week of interviews with top officials under Obama admitting they never had direct evidence of collusion involving the Trump campaign. After a nearly two- year long investigation, the lack of evidence was confirmed.
But by this time, the news media already spent 438 minutes of airtime during a 6 week period covering the “collusion,” according to a report from MRC analysts.
Not only was there an extensive amount of coverage on a topic that proved to be false, but not all of the coverage produced was accurate.
On Feb. 15, The New York Times front page story claimed that members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign “had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” When speaking under oath before the senate committee on intelligence, former FBI director James Comey discredited this story.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) pressed Comey further on the piece from The New York Times, asking, “Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?”, to which Comey replied, “Yes.” Comey went on to say that there have been many stories about the Russia investigations “that are just dead wrong.”
The former FBI director’s statement raises the question of how many inaccurate news stories were included in the 438 minutes of airtime that news media dedicated to coverage of this topic.
Misleading social media posts in 2018 went viral, picturing young children in a detainee center.
The images and stories being reported were disturbing and heartbreaking. However, the messages attached to them incorrectly accused the Trump administration for the suffering of the children in the photo.
One of the most widely circulated photographs showed two immigrant children sleeping in a fenced enclosure. This photo turned out to have been taken in an Arizona detention facility in 2014, during former President Obama’s administration.
Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau said on twitter in regards to the images that “This is happening right now, and the only debate that matters is how we force our government to get these kids back to their families as fast as humanly possible.”
The tweet currently has 22.7 thousand retweets. Many activists and journalists retweeted and spread awareness of these pictures, including Shaun King, Linda Sarsour and Jake Silverstein, editor in Chief of the New
York Times Magazine. Silverstein later issued an apology after incorrectly suggesting the pictures posted were recent.
On Jun. 18, 2018, CNN reported that “it is not the first time that alarming photos of caged children have been wrongly attributed to Trump administration policies.”
Another story reported by the Washington Post in Sep. 2018 wrongly accused the Trump administration of denying passports to Latin-Americans along the border, and instead accusing them of fraudulent birth certificates.
This story contained significant errors yet was picked up by other news outlets. The Huffington Post wrote a report exposing the lies in the article, even revealing that the number of passport denials have dropped significantly during Trump’s term.
The Washington Posts publicist later wrote, “The point was to help illustrate the complexity and potential scope of the issue. Having said that, we should have made clear the affidavit we referenced was part of a case that emerged in the Obama era.”
Withdrawing Troops from Syria
ABC, on Sundays World News Tonight and Monday’s Good Morning America reported “Slaughter in Syria” sharing video footage supposedly showing Kurdish civilians being bombed by Turkey after the President announced U.S. troops would leave Syria.
The footage they used to falsely claim this was not taken in Syria but at a Kentucky gun range two years earlier. ABC later tweeted that they removed the video- which had already aired on World News Tonight and Good Morning America after questions were raised about the accuracy.
Attorney General William Barr
On May 10, 2020, NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press aired an edited clip of Attorney General William Barr’s response to a question regarding the AG’s decision to dismiss charges against Michael Flynn.
However, Todd went much further than just editing the video to take Barr’s comments out of context. In his news segment, Todd accused Barr of not citing “the rule of law”. Barr had in fact specifically stated the rule of law in the portion of the video Todd edited out.
NBC’s Meet the Press tweeted their regrets about “the error.” Chuck Todd later issued an apology for his “mistake”, but claimed someone else edited the video.
AG Barr isn’t the only person to suffer such treatment at the hands of the press.
On June 22 2017, CNN reported that Trump Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was involved with a Russian Direct Investment fund and was under investigation by Congress.
Scaramucci was not under investigation, CNN retracted the story and was forced to fire the three reporters who published it.
Various news outlets and reporters have apologized and issued statements regarding their role in spreading misinformation about Trump and his administration. However, news outlets are rarely held accountable for inaccurate reporting and/or repeating inaccurate news.
The revisions, retractions and clarifications published long after the fact rarely get the same attention as the frenzy stirred by the initial post or news story.
(Contributing writer, Allegra Nokaj.) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)