Accuracy in Media

President Trump attacked a Washington Post story in uncommonly specific terms on Monday, indicating the story – which supposedly chronicled the process by which Trump’s tweets about the Squad of Democrat representatives last week came about – was false and based on anonymous sources that simply don’t exist.

The story, “He always doubles down’: Inside the political crisis caused by Trump’s racist tweets,” by Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker and Seung Min Kim, purported to be a behind-the-scenes look at how Trump came to tweet that the four members of the Squad of radical leftist Democrat congresswomen – Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – should go back to their countries and try the schemes they propose for American there first, then come back and “show us how it’s done.”

Right from the lead, the Post spliced the quote such that it was presented in a misleading way.

“President Trump’s own top aides didn’t think he fully understood what he had done last Sunday, when he fired off a trio of racist tweets before a trip to his golf course,” the four Post reporters wrote.

Later, the Post declared: “This account of Trump’s tweets and their aftermath is based on interviews with 26 White House aides, advisers, lawmakers and others involved in the response – most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share behind-the-scenes details.”

The president hit back early Monday, tweeting: “The Amazon Washington Post front-page story yesterday was total Fake News. They said, “Advisors wrote new talking points and handed him reams of opposition research on the four Congresswomen.” Now, really, does that sound like me? What advisors, there were no talking points, … except for those stated by me, & “reams of paper” were never given to me. It is a made-up story meant to demean & belittle. The Post had no sources. The facts remain the same, that we have 4 Radical Left Congresswomen who have said very bad things about Israel & our Country!”

Six minutes later, in a tweet that was not part of the original thread, Trump wrote: “The Mainstream Media is out of control. They constantly lie and cheat in order to get their Radical Left Democrat views out their [sic] for all to see. It has never been this bad. They have gone bonkers & no longer care what is right or wrong. This large scale false reporting is sick!”

The “reams of paper” part referred to a section in the story where the Post charged “As is often the case, Trump acted alone – impulsively following his gut to the dark side of American politics, and now the country would have to pick up the pieces.” It then quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who golfed with the president on Sunday, saying, “Well, he always doubles down. Then he adjusts.”

Then, the Post wrote, “Like others, Graham urged Trump to reframe away from the racist notion at the core of the tweets – that only European immigrants or their descendants are entitled to criticize the country,” which is not what he said at all. “Advisers wrote new talking points and handed him reams of opposition research on the four congresswomen. Pivot to patriotism. Focus on their ideas and behavior, not identity. Some would still see a racist agenda, the argument went, but at least it would not be so explicit.”

The Post also accused Republicans of trying to ignore the problem into oblivion, based also totally on anonymous sources. “And at key moments, there were attempts to pretend it hadn’t happened at all,” the Post wrote. “When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talked to Trump early in the week about ongoing budget negotiations, the tweets never came up, according to two people familiar with the communication.”

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