• 3 More Major Fake News Stories In Just Five Months Of Trump’s Presidency

    We are merely five months into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, and still in the midst of a fake news epidemic. It has grown more subtle and refined over time—gone is the regular cycle of industrial-scale media ineptitude and stupidity that began shortly after Trump clinched the presidency—but it is still chugging on like one of those old-fashioned Kalamazoo hand-pump railway cars: slow and quiet but somehow weirdly inexorable.

    At a certain point we must ask ourselves why. We know the media are overwhelmingly liberal, deeply hostile towards Trump’s presidency and conservatives generally, and thus must feel rather strained and desperate when their arch-nemesis-apparent holds the White House and Republicans command an historic amount of political power throughout the country. Heady times will drive anyone batty.

    Yet this still does not explain its relentless nature. Trump administration or no, majority Republican governor bloc or no, after a cursory freak-out it shouldn’t be that hard for journalism to return to square one. The news media have one job, and it is to report facts: factual things, things that are true, things that are the opposite of false. It should not be difficult to do this.

    Yet for many of our media leaders, it apparently is. This, to the great discredit of the American fourth estate, is the media we have. What follows are 13 more examples of the post-election trend I tracked in an earlier article counting 16 others.

    January 22: The Trump-Comey Bromance
    On January 22, shortly after President Trump took office, author Richard Hine tweeted out a short video that he claimed showed Trump “literally [blowing] a kiss to James Comey at a WH reception for law enforcement.” Hine’s tweet was retweeted nearly 10,000 times. The media, naturally, glommed into it.

    Among the media boosters of this story: ThinkProgress’s Judd Legum (retweeted nearly 1,600 times), The New Republic’s Jeet Heer (657 retweets), the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, the New Yorker’s Ben Taub, Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, Vox’s Matt Yglesias, GQ’s Keith Olbermann (retweeted nearly 1,100 times), ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser, and many others. The news outlets that ran with this story, meanwhile, included HuffPost, Raw Story, The Week and others.

    Unfortunately for all of the credulous media figures who took this story to press (or to tweet), it wasn’t true: audio of the exchange clearly shows Trump is not blowing a kiss to Comey, but rather saying his name. But a good, juicy fake news story is hard to quash: months after this fake news died down, the Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson reported on it as if it were credible.
  • February 1: Neil Gorsuch’s ‘Fascism Forever’ Club
    On February 1 the U.K. Daily Mail reported that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch had “founded and led a student group” known as the “Fascism Forever Club” in high school. The story made waves at news websites and on social media: U.S. News and World Report, The Nation, AOL, the AV Club, Salon, and Vice all fell for it, while writers and media personalities such as Bill Maher, Heer, Gersh Kuntzman, Millhiser, and Olbermann all eagerly and credulously tweeted about it.

    As it turns out, it wasn’t true at all: Gorsuch had simply included the club as a joke in his yearbook entry. Much of the media couldn’t simply wait to confirm this, however, leading to yet another hysterical fake news media cycle.

    included the club as a joke in his yearbook entry. Much of the media couldn’t simply wait to confirm this, however, leading to yet another hysterical fake news media cycle.

    February 17: The Mobilization of the National Guard
    On February 17, Garance Burke at the Associated Press published a bombshell report that claimed “the Trump administration considered a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border.” The AP story was shared 43,000 times on Facebook. The Boston Globe ran the story; so did CBS and the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times and Slate and Vice and countless smaller outlets. Social media went nuts.

    Everyone took the AP at its word, which turned out to be a mistake: as Becket Adams pointed out at the Washington Examiner, the entire story was more or less bogus: the “proposal” was in fact an “early, pre-decision draft,” one never seriously considered by the Department of Homeland Security, it never mentioned “100,000 National Guard troops,” and never actually mentioned nationalizing the National Guard.

    The AP quietly edited its story to correct these humiliating errors, although to this day there is still no official correction on the story’s webpage.
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