Accuracy in Media

As any good journalist or storyteller knows, word choice matters. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word “cahoots” as “acting together with others for an illegal or dishonest purpose.”

This morning on MSNBC, Eli Stokols, a White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times and an MSNBC contributor, accused President Trump of seeking staff to be “cahoots” with him. MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle did not soften, neutralize or correct the language. Rather, she encouraged viewers to marinate in that word.

MSNBC was covering the departure of White House counsel Don McGahn later this fall, as Trump tweeted Wednesday.

“Whether or not the way that affects White House operations remains to be seen, but you can put that up on the board as yet another person in that White House who has been a bit of a break on some of the president’s impulses and more reflexive actions,” Stokols said. “A person who is leaving and will likely be replaced by someone who is more in cahoots with the president, willing to go around with what Donald Trump wants.”

“In cahoots,” Ruhle said. “Just think about that.”

Stokols also speculated that Trump “was really irked by the New York Times report, learning of McGahn testifying.

“Yes, Trump tweeted that, ‘Oh, I encouraged him, I knew about all of this.’ But he was taken aback by that article and not happy to hear that his White House counsel, who he believes, again, is a personal lawyer who should be just protecting his own personal interests, he was really upset to hear that McGahn has spent 30 hours talking to Mueller’s team, and that’s why I think you saw yesterday the president unilaterally Tweeting, ‘Thanks, Don McGahn, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’”

Yet Trump tweeted a correction to this false reporting around McGahn’s departure and his replacement.

“I am very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House Counsel! I liked Don, but he was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions. So much Fake Reporting and Fake News!”

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