Accuracy in Media

The New York Times, citing only anonymous sources, accused President Trump of saying Haitians “all have AIDS” and Nigerians live in “huts,” and several attendees at the meeting then went on the record to say the accusations were false.

According to The Times’ report, the president was furious after seeing a report of how many foreigners had entered the country since he became president.

“More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

“Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

“Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never ‘go back to their huts’ in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.”

It set off a series of pieces denouncing the president.

The New York Daily News turned everything up a notch. “President Trump exploded with vitriolic and racist comments – saying all Haitians have AIDS and mocking Nigerians – during a heated White House meeting about immigration, according to a report on Saturday,” it reported.

“He said he looked like a fool as the number climbed and he failed to make good on his promise to curtail the number of foreigners coming to America, sources told the New York Times.”

The report put an end to any discussion of whether the president is a racist.

“All the ‘debate’ about whether Donald Trump is really, truly racist should be put to rest,” wrote Angela Helm at the Root, a Slate-owned site that focuses on African-American issues. “The man actually opened his mouth in public – as president of the United States – and fixed his flat lips to say that ‘all Haitians have AIDS and all Nigerians live in huts.”

The White House says no such thing happened. “General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s press secretary, said. “It’s both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”

The New York Times said it had one source who was in the meeting and one who had heard about it from people who were actually there. These were the only two to confirm both the remark about Haiti and the one about Nigeria. Four other people at the meeting say they didn’t recall either remark.  

“The White House did not deny the heated nature of the meeting but insisted Trump never used the words ‘AIDS’ or ‘huts,’” the Daily News reported. “Several participants in the meeting told The Times they did not recall Trump using those words and did not think he had.”

The ambiguity – the notion that multiple people with their own public reputations to protect agree they didn’t hear the president use these incendiary words and indeed said they did not think he had, the fact this allegedly occurred in June but was kept under wraps for six months when solid accusations against Trump, such as the Access Hollywood tape, were rushed to the air in seconds – seemed not to matter.

“The fact that this totally sounds like something Trump would say is horrific enough,” wrote Esquire magazine. “Merry Christmas everybody. This is the world we live in.”

The Daily News pivoted from the multitude of staffers saying they did not hear these remarks to a quote from Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, who admitted he didn’t know whether Trump had made the remarks but “wouldn’t be surprised if the comments came from the president’s mouth, arguing that his immigration agenda is motivated by racism.”

“He’s basically saying, ‘You people of color coming to America seeking the American dream are a threat to white people,’ Sharry told the Times.” 

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