Media mistakes intensify debate over ‘fake news’
Media outlets have remained under fire for several days amid a debate over journalism in an age when President Trump regularly attacks media as “fake news.”
On Sunday, the debate raged on as conservatives doubled down on perceived bias in the so-called mainstream media and the president’s son mocked an editor for defending the industry.
Both the president and his son Donald Trump Jr. have tried to capitalize on the media’s mistakes this weekend in an attempt to discredit journalists. Trump on Sunday blasted the “out of control” media for being “a stain on America,” while Trump Jr. slammed news outlets for not contacting him in their reporting.
“If they were really trying to get to the truth you would think they would reach out to the other side before running with it. They all have my number… they couldn’t care less about the truth,” Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter.
Very little discussion of all the purposely false and defamatory stories put out this week by the Fake News Media. They are out of control – correct reporting means nothing to them. Major lies written, then forced to be withdrawn after they are exposed…a stain on America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2017
If they were really trying to get to the truth you would think they would reach out to the other side before running with it. They all have my number… they couldn’t care less about the truth. https://t.co/QDEUOgmAVx
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 10, 2017
Several news organizations, including two top cable networks, were recently forced to issue corrections to articles related to the investigation into Russia’s election meddling and potential ties between Trump campaign staff members and the Kremlin.
The mistakes provide additional fodder for Trump’s claim that the media is overhyping the investigation into Russia’s election meddling, a concern also raised on Sunday shows.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, a prominent conservative writer, suggested during a Sunday interview on Fox News’s “Media Buzz” that “the real scandal” could be journalists “perpetuating” the “Russia-Trump collusion narrative.”
Her remarks follow CNN’s Friday correction to a story that originally said Trump Jr. received an email from WikiLeaks presenting hacked documents with Democratic information on Sept. 4, before WikiLeaks made them public. The cable news outlet corrected the story, clarifying that Trump Jr. received the email on Sept. 14, after WikiLeaks had already published the documents.
“It turned out that it was, like so many other stories that we’ve gotten on this narrative, a complete nothing burger,” Hemingway said of the CNN report.
The mistakes have provided ammunition to the president, who has since the 2016 campaign railed against “fake news” and what he views as biased reporting.
“Fake News CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake yesterday. They were caught red handed, just like lonely Brian Ross at ABC News (who should be immediately fired for his “mistake”),” Trump said Saturday.
“Watch to see if @CNN fires those responsible, or was it just gross incompetence?”
The president was referring to ABC News correspondent Brian Ross, who in a report earlier this month said former national security adviser Michael Flynn would testify that Trump directed him to contact Russian officials during the campaign.
The network later corrected the story and suspended Ross, noting Trump told Flynn during the campaign “to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other hot spots,” and instructed him to make contact shortly after he won the 2016 election.
But the inaccurate report had already pushed U.S. stocks into a downward spiral, causing Trump to later suggest that individuals who lost money in the stock market over the report should consider suing ABC News.
“It set a media narrative based on a lie. That’s the problem,” former Trump campaign aide David Bossie told “Media Buzz” on Sunday.
Bossie argued that the media has an agenda against Trump that fuels inaccurate reporting.
“They can’t help themselves. They hate this president. They will never let him succeed,” he said.
Bossie also slammed Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel, who apologized Saturday after tweeting out a photo of a near-empty arena hosting a Trump rally that was taken hours before the event began.
“We have story after story after story of fake news,” Bossie said.
ABC and CNN both earned criticism from within the industry over their errors, but not everyone in the industry views the mistakes in a negative light.
David Frum, an editor for The Atlantic who was formerly a speechwriter to President George W. Bush, argued Sunday that the reporting mistakes are why readers should trust journalists.
“The mistakes are precisely the reason the people should trust the media,” Frum told CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
Frum argued that journalism is a process, saying that readers gradually consume news over time to discern the truth.
“In the process, there are going to be overshoots and undershoots,” Frum said.
The mistakes, however, have only fueled Trump’s attacks on the media.
Similar to his line of attack after CNN and ABC made their mistakes, the president on Saturday went after Weigel after he apologized for the misleading photograph.
“.@daveweigel of the Washington Post just admitted that his picture was a FAKE (fraud?) showing an almost empty arena last night for my speech in Pensacola when, in fact, he knew the arena was packed (as shown also on T.V.). FAKE NEWS, he should be fired,” Trump said.