Accuracy in Media

You know it’s bad when President Donald Trump starts criticizing his own people, the mainstream media seemed to say earlier this week. 

“Trump Blasts Pence Aide as ‘Never Trumper’ After She Said Ukraine Call Was ‘Inappropriate,” read a typical headline on Slate. 

“President Donald Trump once again attacked someone who is cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry. On Sunday, Trump set his sights on Jennifer Williams, labeling one of Vice President Mike Pence’s top national security aides as a ‘Never Trumper’ after she characterized his July call with Ukraine as ‘unusual and inappropriate,’” wrote Daniel Politi in his lead. 

“Who is Jennifer Williams? Pence Aide Listened to Trump-Zelensky Call,” read the headline at the New York Times. “As the special adviser on Europe and Russia for Vice-President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams was one of a handful of national security officials who listened in real time to President Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Volodomyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine,” read the lead on Michael Shear’s story. 

“Mike Pence aide to testify publicly Tuesday in impeachment inquiry,” read the headline on Alex Marquardt’s story at CNN. 

“Trump dismisses Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams, who overheard Zelensky call, as ‘Never Trumper,’” read the headline on William Cummings’ story for USA Today. 

What’s going on here? Why are people who work for Pence attacking Trump? 

CNN’s Marquardt portrayed her as a brave patriot, identifying her in the lead to his story as “a senior adviser to Vice President Mike Pence who complied with a request to testify earlier this month in front of the committee leading the impeachment inquiry.” Williams, it noted, “was the first person on Pence’s national security team to appear …” 

The truth is Williams is not a “Pence aide.” She is a veteran State Department employee who has worked for presidents of both parties and was detailed to Pence’s office to advise on a narrow range of topics. The Times referred to her as “the latest in a series of diplomats to express their concerns about the call.” 

Outlets repeated Trump’s tweet about Williams: “Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls & see the just-released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly have never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!” 

CNN wrote that, in this tweet, “Trump resurfaced an unfounded accusation he has raised against other officials who have testified in the probe, characterizing Williams as a Never Trumper and associating her with other ‘Never Trumpers.’” 

It went on to burnish Williams’ credentials. “Current and former colleagues have heaped praise on Williams, with one White House official saying: “She is the most professional person in this building.” It did not say whether this was a current White House official, a key question given that her only named quote is from a former Barack Obama official saying “Jen is the type of person who I know to be dedicated to the institution above all else.” 

But Axios reported that Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Pence and Williams’ supervisor, “rebuked” Williams for her version of events. 

“I was on the much-reported July 25 call?? I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns,” Axios quoted him as sayingMs. Williams was also on the call, and as she testified, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to me, her direct supervisor, regarding the call. In fact, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the vice president’s staff, including our chief of staff and the vice president.” 


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