Accuracy in Media

While President Barack Obama was in office, the media’s official “fact-checkers” rarely checked Obama administration policies and narratives for truthfulness or accuracy. In fact, they often published stories based almost entirely on administration talking points or press releases, and disregarded obvious evidence that contradicted the administration’s narratives. But now that President Donald Trump has gained office, the media’s fact-checkers have whipped themselves into a frenzy, reporting on each and every minor misstep that our new President might make during his press conferences, rallies, or in his tweets.

For example, Trump recently tweeted that “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” The press was quick to point out that Trump had gone too far in his statement, even suggesting that he was inciting violence.

“And every time that Donald Trump uses this kind of language,” said Game Change co-author John Heilemann on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “I always worry that it’s an incitement to elements of our country that might go ahead and do something when the President of the United States calls the press the enemy of the people, that they might take that seriously.”

In response to Heilemann’s comments, Joe Scarborough said that “this is very, very dangerous” because there are unbalanced people on the left and the right. In other words, Trump could be blamed for future violence.

But, as Accuracy in Media’s (AIM) chairman Don Irvine notes, Trump is not the first to say that the media are the enemy of the American people. Democratic pollster Pat Caddell made similar comments during our ObamaNation—A Day of Truth conference in 2012: “When they [the media] desert those ramparts and they go to serve—to decide that they will now become active participants—when they decide that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse—and this is the danger of the last two weeks—what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know, they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.”

The two weeks Caddell was referring to were those after the attacks in Benghazi, when it was already obvious that the Obama administration was lying about the cause of the attacks, and the media were rolling over so as not to damage Obama’s chances at re-election a few weeks later.

Trump was not referring to the institution of the free press as an enemy, but rather to how biased and one-sided our mainstream media are when it comes to politics and issues of national importance. AIM’s Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi confirmed that, and much more, regarding Benghazi.

The February 20 MSNBC segment also sought to fact check Trump’s quote of Thomas Jefferson about the press, pointing to Post reporting which argued that Trump took Jefferson out of context.

“Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln: many of our greatest Presidents fought with the media, and called them out, often-times, on their lies,” said Trump on February 18 at a rally in Melbourne, Florida. “In fact, Thomas Jefferson said: ‘Nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper.’”

The UK Daily Mail ran with the headline that “Trump takes Thomas Jefferson quote out of context to bash the media…” Similarly, the Post’s Fact-Checker, Glenn Kessler, wrote that “Trump selectively quotes from Jefferson here, who, for most of his life, was a fierce defender of the need for a free press.” Jefferson was, at the time he made those comments, Kessler writes, “embittered” about reports of him having relations with his slave. Politifact piled on with “That quote checks out. But it’s not the whole story on Jefferson.” By the way, AIM has fact-checked the stories of Jefferson’s supposed relations with Sally Hemings, and found them to be baseless.

That Trump had taken Jefferson out of context has become an article of faith for the media, as they dig for as many misstatements of Trump’s that they can find. But is Trump really taking Jefferson out of context if he cites a quote that Jefferson actually made? Trump is hardly going to explain the entire history of Jefferson’s thoughts on the media while making a stump speech. This appears to be the media playing little more than a “gotcha” game with the President.

“And, in any event, Jefferson’s saying something different on another occasion does not render Trump’s quotation ‘out of context,’ misleading, or in any way inappropriate,” writes John Hinderaker for Powerlineblog.

The media continue to fact check and mock many of President Trump’s statements. They should fact-check him, and he should make a greater effort to be more precise in his choice of words. If these media outlets had applied the same standard to President Obama, then there might have been some accountability for his administration. But it is clear that it is of no benefit for Trump to lie to the press or to his supporters, for that works against his ability to advance his agenda.

Whether the Trump presidency succeeds will depend on his ability to deliver on his campaign promises regarding border security, jobs, trade deals and Obamacare, to name a few. As long as he keeps those promises, many in the public will likely continue to support him.

By focusing on the trivial, the media undermine their own legitimacy. Take, for example, Politifact’s takedown of Trump’s statement that “Look at what’s happening to every poll when it comes to optimism in our country…It’s sweeping across the country.” Politifact counters with polls on America’s low favorability of our “standing in the world” and Trump’s low approval rating. Polls can be used to show many things. This week, Trump’s approval rating is up two points in the Gallup Poll, to 42 percent, and Rasmussen has Trump down two points to 51 percent approval.

Another example is fact checking Trump’s claim that Meryl Streep is overrated as an actress. That clearly falls into the category of opinion, and is one of four examples cited by Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist in an excellent analysis of the sorry state of media “fact checks.”

We have often pointed out that fact-checking shouldn’t be the domain of a particular columnist in a newspaper, but should be part of every article published. The subjective choices of which comments should or shouldn’t be fact-checked, and what criteria to use, usually end up demonstrating the political bias of the publication or the journalist doing the fact checking.

The media, and fact-checkers, are grasping at straws in their attempts to contradict President Trump and reduce his influence. They tried it all throughout the presidential campaign, and obviously did not succeed. But it may be that the support for Trump will continue to swell: he has momentum, and may just surprise the pollsters again in 2020.




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Comments

  • jaimelmanzano

    It is
    time to reign the media in for overreaching,
    presuming/pretending to inform the public.

    Reading the plain meaning of the words in the constitution, freedom
    of the press in the constitution applies to the printed “press” – not
    to the spectrum media which is subject to law requiring those licensed
    to educate and inform the public. This modern form of media did not
    exist when the constitution was written. The electronic media today
    could be required to identify sources of its facts, and the individuals
    who
    presume to inform the public. Gossipers, unattributed opinion, or
    unchecked
    facts do not serve the public. Appropriate financial penalties, and when
    appropriate, cancellation of broadcast licenses, should be contemplated.

    Secondly,
    perhaps libel law should be amplified to foster the protection of the
    reputations and good names of individuals and organizations. This could apply to the printed press as well.

    Jaime L. Manzano
    7903 Park Overlook Drive
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    301 365 4781

  • jug

    The media just isn’t doing its job!
    They are highly biased, and doing the whole country a dangerous disservice!

    It’s a sad, sad day, when this previously great country comes to this state!

    They seem to think like they know what is best for the country, but the country can’t survive with only one point of view. It needs a balancing point of view, or it will go the way of Russia, 1917!

  • Ted

    Trump’s a born bu**sh**ter! That’s all he’s done his whole life … and that’s what’s made him and kept him a multi-millionaire … personal self-promotion and personal self-aggrandizement with a continuous stream of one kind of bu**sh** or another … … … and that’s all he’s doing now. So ,,, IF there’s “fake news” out there … he and his hangers-on and adherents are creating it!

  • Ted

    Keep in mind that it was the Bush administration and tea-bangers who brought this country to this sad state. The only criticism one can realistically have against Obama is that he wasn’t able to fully rectify the mess Bush and his GOPpledangers created.

  • Ted

    Remember … it was the GOPpledangers that forced the repeal of The Fairness Doctrine. Had that remained in place, the media would be far less of a partisan morass than it is today. And, of course, Fox News is the worst of the msm insofar as being partisan and peddling FAUX NEWS!

  • Jonathan Warner

    OMG! Ted the Troll comes out from under his bridge with more rambling, incoherent Hate Speech! Or is it mommy’s basement? Time to take off the tinfoil hat Mr. Troll, put some clothes on, move out of mommy’s basement, and GET A LIFE! Why do you even bother with AIM anyhow? It’s VERY obvious that you’re an ignorant, leftist hater who does nothing but post hateful lies, and you can’t even write in a grown-up manner. I’m curious BTW, what exactly is a “tea-banger”? What a moron! Methinks Mr. Troll needs to Lern to Spel (LOL), and maybe work on the punctuation and grammar as well.

  • tkrepel

    How funny that an organization calling itself Accuracy in Media ceases to be interested in media accuracy when a Republican is in the White House. AIM’s attacks on fact-checkers are nothing more than an attempt to shield Trump from scrutiny — and a contradiction of its very name.

  • wlennon

    Perhaps due to the fact that the Fact Checkers are incorrect. Jefferson agreed we needed a press, but he was worried it may become too political, or not be fair and impartial. He was indeed correct.

  • tkrepel

    But Mr. Aronoff does not provide a single example of fact-checkers being “incorrect.” Nibbling around the edges of whether or not Jefferson was taken out of context is not proving it “incorrect.”

  • wlennon

    The Obama Admin and his pied piper followers single handedly ruined this nation and sharply divided it, as never before in history. That we done before we knew who would be running for President in place of that moron, Obama and his cronies. We have state laws here in Texas, one cannot protest covering their face (shirts pulled up to cover, masks, bandana’s), and if you are in the public roadways, it’s an automatic $250 fine the first time, wearing a mask, it’s $500.00 and no less than 24 hours in jail. Since that time, there have been very few mass protests here. Most have not bothered to get permits, so they get angry when they are dispersed, and the other side are left alone due to their permit, and staying off the roads.

  • Wow

    What’s incoherent about his post? The way I see it, your post rambles longer and has way more hate speech and personal attacks. Pot calling the kettle black?

  • jug

    Ted, that nasty brown stuff draining out of your ears is bull shjt!
    You are FULL!
    One out of 5 families have no bread winner, 95 million people have left the work force, and unemployment isn’t 5 percent, but close to 25 percent in reality!

    All on account of your Lord and master, Obutthole!

  • siquijorisland

    you ignorance is offensive i

  • wlennon

    I think you mean “Multi-Billionaire”! You are fooling yourself if you think the Mainstream Media does not put out fake news, going so far as to edit pieces of a speech or press conference to the point to where it loses it’s original context, then a fool you are indeed. However, I have a 2,259.99 piece of very high-tech software, it looks for edits, either video or audio in said video. It will automatically flag an edit, if one cannot see the speaker, point to a portion where someone may think their is a voice edit. Simply filter those voices out, and listen to the background (especially in a setting such as a restaurant). Single out a conversation, and record it, then add the video back in, and compare. It even picks up if a green or blue screen is in use. Even very high production Movies, it can pick up all the edits, one may be surprised at how many edits per minute. It can also be used to do edits, although if one does, and run it through the Check Edit feature, it will pick up your own edit, all edits leave a trace, even if sound wave equipment is used to match two pieces of the same conversation, and adjust accordingly. The human eye or ears may not notice, but the software cannot be fooled.

  • wlennon

    I take it you have not read the “Federalist Papers” book(s), it’s a collection of note taking, discarded writings from the days of putting together the Constitution, I think you should read what not only Jefferson said, but others discussing a free media, most even considered press oversight. In the end it was one of the last things agreed upon, that there would be a Free Press. Question-Who Fact Checks the Fact-Checkers, and who pays their salaries? Fact Check.com and Snopes has been busted for reporting political stories, one in early January was labeled as False, and were contradicted by a Lester Holt story, so which one is to be believed?

  • Jonathan Warner

    Hey look everybody, ANOTHER Troll rears it’s ugly head! If you can’t figure it out, you’re dumber than he is. And NEVER e-mail me personally again, moron! You’ve nothing productive to say, you’re just another leftist who Trolls this website just to make these sort of moronic comments.

  • sox83cubs84

    If we could find the rock that AK Lady has crawled under and bring her out to meet Ted and Wow, we’d have the Three Stooges!

  • Wow

    E-mail you personally? I’m not sure you even know how the internet works. Nothing but personal attacks. Sad!

  • franklygross

    actually, obummer didnt do it single handedly. he had a cheerleading media who didnt ask questions and ignored blatant lies and stories which deserved investigating, a congress who pretended they were helpless, and a justice department who legislated from the bench and were allowed to do so. no, congress and the courts are all equally complicit. that is why the R’s won both the house and senate under obummer terms. the question is, how long will congress be allowed to be held unaccountable? they ran on repealing obamacare and undoing obummers eo’s and get back to enforcing the laws, not circumventing them or just flat out ignoring them.

  • Smokey

    Blaming President Bush?
    Crawl back into mama’s basement with your pacifier, snowflake.

  • mlentz

    Ted is not a moron, even a moron has some intelligence. As Buggs Bunny would have said, “What a maroon!” A “maroon” is a coconut cookie with no intelligence at all. Otherwise, thumbs up!

  • mlentz

    Trump has control of the FCC. The fake media has requirements they have to meet to retain their licenses. He’s already been given cause to yank them.