Accuracy in Media

CNN anchor Jake Tapper interviewed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and failed to fact-check her on-air after she made a false claim about President Donald Trump. She criticized Trump for calling the coronavirus pandemic a “hoax,” which was a lie.

On Tapper’s “State of the Union” show, Ocasio-Cortez said, “We’re hearing every step from this administration- first, we were hearing it was a hoax, then we were hearing that everything is fine, then we were hearing that the fundamentals of the economy was OK – until the crash comes.”

For the record, Trump did not call the coronavirus pandemic a “hoax.”

While on the campaign trail in South Carolina, Trump said that the Democratic Party was trying to politicize his administration’s coronavirus response. “They tried anything. They tried it over and over. They’d been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning. They lost. It’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it,” he said, “And this is their new hoax.”

Tapper’s statement on Twitter was that he knew it was a lie, but considering Trump’s alleged penchant for lying, he let Ocasio-Cortez’s statement slide. “I thought about it, because the president did not call the virus a hoax,” Tapper said. “But I didn’t because he *did* call a hoax the concerns of those saying that the response from the president was insufficient and that he was downplaying the gravity of the crisis. And that too was a lie.”

His defense highlighted the media’s tendency to regularly fact-check Trump’s remarks, but not consistently fact-check lawmakers such as Ocasio-Cortez. CNN, who employs Tapper, and other mainstream media outlets and networks fact-check Trump after a tweet or press conference. But few dedicate resources and time to fact-check congressional lawmakers.

Tapper was wrong to glance over Ocasio-Cortez’s on-air lie about Trump calling the virus a “hoax,” but he was also wrong to defend himself by citing Trump’s past lies. It is the media’s responsibility to fact-check lawmakers no matter their political affiliation or public profile, and in this regard, Tapper failed to do his job.

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