Accuracy in Media

As U.S.-China relations were in the process of thawing during the tit-for-tat trade war, U.S. Attorney General William Barr dropped another bombshell: His office announced the U.S. charged four Chinese military hackers in the 2017 Equifax hack.

But NBC News chose not to mention Trump’s name in its article that extensively praised Barr’s announcement.

NBC News headlined their article, “China spent years collecting Americans’ personal information. The U.S. just called it out,” which article pointed out that Barr’s announcement confirmed long-harbored suspicions by cybersecurity experts that China was behind other information hacks in the past decade.

The news outlet said that not only was China to blame for the 2017 Equifax hack, but also the 2015 hack of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OMB). The Equifax hack affected at least 150 million people, or 56% of Americans and the OMB hack affected 21.5 million Americans who worked for or contracted with the federal government. Barr’s announcement led cybersecurity experts to believe that Chinese government hackers were also behind the 2018 Marriott hotels hack, which affected 500 million Marriott customers. NBC News added that experts said that the 2016 hack of the Anthem insurance company could be traced back to China.

In total, China’s hacking of American companies and their databases number at least 171.5 million Americans, not including the number of Americans affected by the Marriott hotels hack since Marriott did not confirm how many Americans were directly affected.

NBC News mentioned Barr’s name a total of six times in the article and noted cybersecurity experts’ praise for Barr’s decision to go public with the announcement to charge four Chinese military hackers. However, NBC News did not have a single mention of Trump’s name in the article, despite Barr representing Trump’s interest in challenging China on the international stage.

Trump made it clear that he will challenge China through words and actions, ranging from openly condemning China’s alleged intellectual property theft and engaging in a trade war with China over imports and exports. Based on this logic, Barr’s announcement adds more credibility to Trump’s actions and public statements about China. Yet NBC News gave Barr the credit and not Trump, though Barr is a Trump appointee.

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