Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers in the Trump Era

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by Paul Murano  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 4, 2020   

Blatant falsehoods reported by mainstream media

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Fact-checking President Trump has become a pastime for the mainstream media — perhaps even an obsession. But no one seems to fact-check the fact-checkers. With the high-profile exception of the president of the United States himself, the self-appointed arbiters of truth have pretty much gotten off scot-free.

To illustrate media shortcomings, Emmy-Award winning investigative journalist and New York Times best-selling author Sharyl Attkisson has compiled a list of 115 media mistakes perpetrated within the Trump era

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Sharyl Attkisson

The Washington Post deleted a tweet containing false reporting about a Jan. 19 incident regarding a standoff between Trump-supporting pro-life Covington Catholic high school students and a pro-choice Native American activist. The Post wrongly stated, without attribution, that the activist had fought in the Vietnam War. The activist also falsely stated that a high school student had blocked him and "wouldn't allow him to retreat."

A week before Trump was elected, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Mississippi was torched and the words "Vote Trump" found painted on the outside. The mayor condemned the incident as a hate crime and stated it was "an attack on the black church and the black community." However, police later arrested a black church member for the arson. They say the man staged the fire to look like an attack by Trump supporters. Even today, some of the corrected news reports retain headlines seeming to blame Trump.

The day after Trump was elected, an incident at Elon University in North Carolina made national headlines. Hispanic students found a "hateful note" written on a classroom whiteboard reading, "Bye Bye Latinos." After the story made the news, it was learned the message was written by "a Latino student who was upset about the results of the election."

The week after Trump's election, a Muslim student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette claimed Trump supporters pulled off her head covering and assaulted and robbed her. She later admitted fabricating the story.

Putin said the opposite: that he did not have compromising information on Trump.

A month after Trump's election, a Muslim-American woman claimed Trump supporters tried to steal her headwear and harassed her on the New York City subway. She ultimately was arrested after confessing she made up the whole story.

NBC reports that Trump was the first president since 2002 not to visit the troops at Christmas time. But he (and First Lady Melania) did make the trek. NBC added a note to its story but left the false headline in place.

The New York Post published modeling photos of Melania Trump, reporting they were taken in 1995. Various news outlets relied on that date to imply that Melania — an immigrant — had violated her visa status. But they all got the date wrong. 

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Zeke Miller

CNN claimed Nancy Sinatra was "not happy" with her father's song being used at Trump's inauguration. Sinatra finally responded, "That's not true. I never said that. Why do you lie, CNN? ... Actually I'm wishing him the best."

Zeke Miller of TIME reported President Trump removed the bust statue of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. The news went viral. It was false.

The New York Times' Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo reported about supposed contacts between Trump campaign staff and "senior Russian intelligence officials." Comey later testified: "In the main, [the article] was not true."

NBC News reported in a Tweet that Russian President Vladimir Putin told TV host Megan Kelly that he had compromising information about Trump. Actually, Putin said the opposite: that he did not have compromising information on Trump.

Newsweek's Chris Riotta and others reported Poland's First Lady refused to shake Trump's hand. Newsweek's later "update" reflected the First Lady had indeed shaken Trump's hand, as clearly seen on the video. 

CNN's Chris Cillizza and other news outlets declared Trump "lied" when he stated Trump Tower had been wiretapped. It later turned out there were numerous wiretaps involving Trump Tower.


Time magazine and others used a photo of a crying Honduran child to illustrate a supposed Trump administration policy separating illegal immigrant parents and children. The child's father later reported that agents had never separated her from her mother. The mother had taken her to the United States without his knowledge and separated herself from her other children, whom she left behind.

Fox TV affiliate in Seattle, Washington aired fake, doctored video of President Trump that altered his face and made it appear as though he had stuck his tongue in and out while giving an Oval Office address.

In a story about a lawsuit alleging that candidate Trump forcibly kissed a campaign worker, CNN failed to mention that that lawsuit had been dismissed. It later corrected its story to include the information.

Agence France-Presse published a sensational story saying that more than 100,000 children were being held in migration-related detention in the United States under President Trump. It turns out that was the number in 2015 under President Obama.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell apologized for and retracted anonymous, unverified claims stating that Trump had loans with Russian co-signers.

CNN and nearly every major media outlet criticized President Trump for tweeting that Alabama would likely be impacted by Hurricane Dorian. They claimed that was never the case. However, Trump was correct that multiple official hurricane advisories had put Alabama in a projected impacted area.

The Daily Beast and other media outlets reported that President Trump asked the President of Ukraine eight times in one phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter. However, the released transcript notes reveal Trump mentioned Biden's son (not by name) one time.

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Lawrence O'Donnell

Agence France-Presse published a sensational story saying that more than 100,000 children were being held in migration-related detention in the U.S. under President Trump. It turns out that was the number in 2015 under President Obama.

MSNBC's Nicole Wallace falsely claimed that President Trump had talked about "exterminating Latinos." She apologized the next day.

MSNBC wrongly reported up to 30 U.S. deaths after an Iranian rocket attack. In fact, no Americans were killed. The number was a fabricated number reported by the Iranians.

Numerous media outlets falsely reported that President Trump called the Coronavirus a "hoax." In fact, the president called the Democrat's politicization of the outbreak a hoax.

With regard to communication of the truth, section 2464 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. ... Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: They are fundamental infidelities to God ... ." 

Further, section 2497 states, "By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation."

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