In the last couple of weeks, a succession of reporting errors by networks and organizations such as ABC, CNN, and The Washington Post have both fueled and given undue legitimacy to President Donald Trump’s claims that any news network that criticizes him is “Fake News.”
This came to fuller light after Monday's press brief at the White House when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that "bias in news reports has gotten 'out of control' and 'should be taken seriously,' dismissing journalists who attributed recent errors to honest mistakes that were corrected." Huckabee added that these were not honest claims but rather that the news networks were purposely putting out false and inaccurate reports and statements with malicious intent.
This followed a string of errors, and retractions, such as Brian Ross at ABC News misreported that in his candidacy Trump told Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials, when in reality he did so after his election; a CNN report stating that the Trump campaign received an email from WikiLeaks before the DNC was hacked; and a tweet by Washington Post Journalist Dave Weigel that depicted a misleading photo of the crowd size at Trump’s recent Florida rally. While all three networks apologized and retracted their statements/misleading photos, of course, this was not going to be enough for Trump, who used this to fuel the narrative of fake news and call for the firing of the Washington Post reporter. During the rally in Florida, Trump said, “Did you see all the corrections the media has been making?” He added, “They’ve been apologizing left and right.”
The real concern is that this string of mistakes by these prominent news networks might be feeding and even providing some form of legitimacy to Trump’s claim of fake news. According to The New York Times, “The barrage has deepened concern, among media executives about what they see as a concerted campaign to discredit independent journalism.” Statistically speaking, whether or not this campaign to discredit the media is actually working is a point without contradictory answers.
“A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 46 percent of Americans believe the news media makes up stories about the president. A separate study by the Poynter Institute, on the other hand, found that overall trust and confidence in the news media, while low, has actually increased somewhat under Mr. Trump. The partisan divide, however, has become pronounced among Democrats, nearly 75 percent expressed confidence in the news media compared with only 19 percent of Republicans.”
The different sets of data make it difficult to determine whether or not Trump has been successful, but it cannot be denied that he has gotten quite lucky lately with these mistakes and retractions. Not to mention the irony of an individual that regularly both posts and says wildly inaccurate and outright false things to be pointing fingers at others. Just last month, "Mr. Trump shared with nearly 44 million Twitter followers anti-Muslim videos without verifying them; one purported to show a Dutch boy being beaten by a 'Muslim migrant' who in fact was not a Muslim migrant. Mr. Trump issued no correction, and Ms. Sanders at the time said it did not matter if the video was real because 'the threat is real.'" However, it has become abundantly clear by now that the President cannot be held to standards, and definitely should not be used as a standard for others.