Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump labeled a story Sunday in Axios “fake news.”

The story in question said that Trump suggested dropping nuclear bombs into hurricanes to try to cause them to dissipate before they made landfall, and his accusation appears to have hit a nerve.

Jonathan Swan and Margaret Talev of the far-left Washington-focused news website wrote in “Scoop: Trump suggested nuking hurricanes to stop them from hitting U.S.” that the president “suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States.”

The story is  based entirely on anonymous sources “who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.”

Trump denied the story vehemently. He said in one tweet: “Axios (whatever that is) sat back and said GEEEEE, let’s see, what can we make up today to embarrass the President? Then they said, ‘why don’t we say he wants to bomb a hurricane, that should do it!’ The media in our Country is totally out of control!”

In another tweet, the president wrote: “Just returned to Washington from France and the very successful G-7, only to find that the Fake News is still trying to perpetuate the phony story that I wanted to use Nuclear weapons to blow up hurricanes before they reach shore. This is so ridiculous, never happened!”

In a third tweet, the president wrote: “The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!”

Jim VandeHei, the former congressional aide who started Axios, insisted the story is true, even though no one has produced or seen the National Security Council memorandum and no one has stepped up to the comments.

“We stand solidly behind our reporting,” VandeHei wrote of the questions about the truth and sourcing of the article. “The article is meticulously sourced. Since we published, additional sources have corroborated our account. The president made these comments in at least two separate meetings during his first 14 months in office. And on at least one occasion, they were memorialized in a National Security Council memo.”

The original Axios story claims the meeting in which Trump suggested nuking hurricanes “captured ‘multiple topics, not just hurricanes. … It wasn’t that somebody was so terrified of the bombing idea that they wrote it down. They just captured the president’s comments.’”

Yet elsewhere in the story, it claims the White House staffers who heard the comments were aghast. “The briefer ‘was knocked back on his heels,’ the source in the room added. ‘You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, ‘What the f—? What do we do with this?’”

The story also goes from vague recounting of concepts to minute detail of how the president worded his question.

 “During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, ‘I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?’ according to one source who was there. ‘They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that,’ the source added, paraphrasing the president’s remarks.”

VandeHei said, when covering the president, “We go the extra mile in all our stories to never throw sucker punches and always give the Trump White House precise details of our reporting in advance, and ample time to respond.

“We have found Trump officials accessible, even when we report things they want kept secret. We will continue this approach because we think it best serves all of you.”

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