Accuracy in Media

HuffPost tells us that former President Donald Trump wanted to shoot BLM rioters – in fact, that he instructed the Pentagon to do so. This is not what happened, it’s not even what happened by the quotation from a new book they use as support for the allegation.

Here’s its headline:

Ex-Defense Secretary: Trump Told Pentagon To Shoot George Floyd Protesters

No, he didn’t. They repeat this in their lede (the journalists’ jargon word for the opening sentences):

Former President Donald Trump reportedly urged top military brass to shoot protesters who flooded the streets in the summer of 2020, following the police killing of George Floyd. 

Again, he didn’t. What it is alleged he said, in this new book, is:

That’s according to a new book by former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who recalls Trump asking deputies in a June 2020 Oval Office meeting, “Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?” 

We can describe this to be partial in favor of Trump – that he’s a New York real estate developer who didn’t know how the authorities deal with riots and therefore asked wide-ranging questions about how that dealing could be done. We can describe this as being non-partial towards Trump, or even anti-partial if such a phrase exists – He was a New York real estate developer who didn’t know, and so asked strange questions.

We are not here to be either for or against a specific position or politician. We’re about, as our name suggests, accuracy in media. That quotation doesn’t support the claim that Trump told anyone at all to shoot anyone – most certainly not that headline that he told the Pentagon to. Therefore that headline is inaccurate. 

The bias comes, as we’ve explained before, in that people get influenced by headlines even if the claim is walked back later in the piece. Some number of people will now believe that Trump ordered the shooting of protestors – when the evidence offered doesn’t show that at all.

HuffPost ranks at No. 25 in news and media outlets in the United States. It actually qualifies as a major outlet that is, and it gains 67 million visits a month from being so. We don’t think it’s too much to ask that there be at least some relationship – other than prejudice – between headlines and proof.

There is one other point to make about this claim. The Pentagon runs the Armed Forces, Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force. None of which were called out that summer to deal with the protests. National Guard units are under the control of Governors, and few to none of them were called out either. It was police and police only who met those protestors, they’ve under the control of Mayors by and large. It’s not just that the order wasn’t given to the Pentagon, no units the Pentagon controls were involved anyway. The units Trump didn’t command to shoot weren’t there.




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