Trump seizes on media errors in attacks on ‘fake news’

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President Trump has seized on recent mistakes by two top news networks as evidence to support his “fake news” claims.

Recent errors by CNN and ABC News offered a major blow to media outlets that have come under criticism for inaccurate reports about the president and his campaign.

“Did you see all of the correction the media has been making?” Trump said at a rally in Florida on Friday night in which he ripped both outlets. “They’ve been doing that all year. They never apologize. Maybe that comes with being the president, I don’t know.”

Trump and his allies were quick to seize on media errors this week, in particular an inaccurate CNN report that tied the Trump campaign to a WikiLeaks hack and an erroneous ABC report that said Trump directed collusion with Russia before he was elected.


After Trump spent the last two days publicly reiterating the networks’ mistakes, observers are saying making these kinds of errors are akin to the media handing a weapon to critics.

“This is exactly what Trump and his allies want to say: ‘No matter what you hear on mainstream media, it’s fake. They’re doing it to hurt us,’” reporter Jeff Greenfield said last week on CNN, after the ABC News mistake.

“And this is like handing a sword to the people who want all media to be looked at in that regard,” he continued. 

One Fox News contributor asked: “Has there been an actual bigger screw up in media this year than what ABC & Brian Ross did yesterday?”

Trump at the rally on Friday night took aim at ABC News’s Brian Ross, who last weekend was suspended from the network for four weeks without pay after he reported, incorrectly, that Trump had directed former national security adviser Michael Flynn during the campaign to make contact with Russian officials.

His report, which was made on-air, was later updated to reflect that his source said Trump directed Flynn to contact Russian officials after he was elected.

“They took this fraudster from ABC, they suspended for a month. They should have fired him for what he wrote. He drove the stock market down 350 points in minutes,” the president said Friday. “I said to everybody, get yourself a lawyer and sue ABC News.” 

Trump at his rally then turned his ire toward his familiar foe CNN for issuing a correction on a story regarding the Russia probe earlier on Friday. 

“Oh thank you, CNN, thank you so much. You should have been apologizing for the last two years,” Trump said to laughter and cheers in the audience.

The comments came after CNN corrected a Friday morning scoop regarding documents Donald Trump Jr. received from WikiLeaks. 

The original CNN report posted Friday claimed Trump’s eldest son received an email offering hacked WikiLeaks documents containing Democratic information on Sept. 4, before WikiLeaks had made the cache public. CNN later corrected the report to say the email was sent on Sept. 14, after the documents had already been made public. 

Unlike Ross at ABC News, CNN announced that the reporters behind the story, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, followed the organization’s editorial guidelines. The network does not plan to discipline them.

Trump in his comments fanned the flames of what had already become a controversy among critics and members of the media as well.

“Between this and Brian Ross’ Flynn mistake, the mainstream media is doing a great job of bolstering Trump’s claims about fake news,” former New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki said on Twitter. 

“It’s the most obvious thing to say, but reporters need to SLOW DOWN. Being right is more important than being first,” he continued. 

The president continued to hit CNN for the error on Saturday, accusing the network on Twitter of making a “vicious and purposeful mistake.” 

Adding to the criticism, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also took an opportunity to hit CNN after the network mixed up a White House aide with a former Obama aide. 

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper responded, saying, “We regret the error.”

It was a tough week for the network, which recently launched a “facts first” advertising campaign. CNN has also called the Trump administration out on numerous occasions for its attacks on the media.

Other outlets, including Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, also found themselves facing scrutiny this week after they inaccurately reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had sent a subpoena to Deutsche Bank requesting Trump’s financial records.

But Trump tends to direct the majority of his public ire at cable news networks.

While the president took aim at CNN and ABC for their corrections, he did not mention a Fox News correction regarding one of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s accusers. 

Fox News issued a correction on Saturday after they initially reported that Beverly Young Nelson had forged Moore’s entry in her high school yearbook that read: 

“An update to this story reflects that Beverly Young Nelson admits writing what ABC News characterized as ‘notes’ beneath what she says is Roy Moore’s signature and that the only notes below the signature are the date and location. Furthermore, the headline on [the] story now specifies that Nelson admits to writing part of the inscription herself, rather than forging part of it.”

In the midst of an error-filled week for media, New York Times reporter Peter Baker emphasized how important it is for journalists to be right in the age of Trump.

“Even small mistakes are used to undercut the entire credibility of the press,” Baker said, speaking at a Poynter Institute event this week. 

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