Accuracy in Media

George Papadopoulos, the 29-year-old energy consultant who pleaded guilty to lying to federal law enforcement about when exactly he communicated with Russians, worked as a “young, low-level volunteer” on President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to a tweet Monday from the president.

But the media’s account of Papadopoulos is that he “sat at the elbow of one of Trump’s top campaign advisers,” the Washington Post reported. The Post’s reporting largely relies on a widely circulated photo that shows Papadopoulos sitting at a conference table with then-candidate Trump, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and others.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed the media’s narrative Tuesday, saying that Papadopoulos “is an example of actually somebody doing the wrong thing while the president’s campaign did the right thing.”

Papadopoulos, who previously had worked for Ben Carson’s campaign, was arrested in July 2017 upon his arrival at Dulles Airport. According to a federal indictment, Papadopoulos was a “proactive cooperator” in providing information to federal agents that perhaps led them to Manafort’s and Gates’ alleged acts.

Papadopoulos, who was among a small group of foreign policy hands assembled after the Trump campaign had come under fire for not having any foreign policy advisers, had emailed with several Trump campaign aides, but it’s not clear to what extent he was involved with the campaign.

Despite there being no real indicators at this point to suggest the level of involvement Papadopoulos had with the Trump campaign, mainstream media are pushing the narrative that he was among the president’s most senior advisors.

The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that Trump “belittled” Papadopoulos’ role by calling him a “young, low-level volunteer” and made reference to “interviews and documents” it says indicate Papadopoulos was in “regular contact” with the Trump campaign’s “most senior officials.” The Post cited an anonymous source to elevate Papadopoulos’ profile.

“Papadopoulos sat at the elbow of one of Trump’s top campaign advisers, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, during a dinner for campaign advisers weeks before the Republican National Convention, according to an individual who attended the meeting,” the Post’s Rosalind Helderman, Karen DeYoung and Tom Hamburger reported.

CNN, too, pushed the narrative that Papadopoulos was among Trump’s most senior campaign staff. 

“President Donald Trump and his stable of surrogates have tried to discredit former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in the wake of his guilty plea to special counsel Robert Mueller, casting him as nothing more than a low-level ‘coffee boy’ who rarely — if ever — interacted with senior members of Trump’s campaign,” CNN’s Dan Merica wrote in an article published Tuesday.

“Those comments, though, belie Papadopoulos’ actual role in the campaign, as laid out by Mueller’s statement of charges, and use misinformation and inaccuracies to deride the former campaign adviser,” Merica added. Merica based his claim on two factors that do not clearly establish that Papadopoulos’ seniority in the Trump campaign.

First, Merica suggested that a single photo showing Papadapoulous sitting at a conference table with Trump and others in March 2016 somehow proves Papadopoulos was among the campaign’s most senior staffers.

Second, Merica pointed to a March 2016 Washington Post interview in which Trump called Papadopoulos an “excellent guy.” Merica argued that it was because of these two instances that Trump “knew” Papadopoulos.

As a presidential candidate, Trump, like every other candidate, held numerous meetings with various policymakers, advisers and experts. To suggest that Trump “knew” every single one of those individuals is, quite frankly, naive.

As to Trump’s comment that Papadopoulos is an “excellent guy,” Trump often comments on what he thinks of someone, particularly if they work for him, whenever mentioning them by name. This was true when Trump was a private businessman leading the Trump organization. It was true when he was a presidential candidate overseeing a campaign. And it’s true now that he’s president and head of the Executive Branch.

In short, as far as we know at this point, Trump did not “know” Papadopoulos and Papadopoulos was not part of Trump’s senior campaign staff. CNN, the Post and others would do well to acknowledge as much.

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