Accuracy in Media

In December 2020, Trump had a phone call with a chief investigator of Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office regarding an audit of mail-in ballots. The Washington Post then reported that during the call, Trump told the investigator to “find the fraud” and that she would be a “national hero” if she did. 

Following the Post’s report, Trump was swiftly criticized for seemingly pressuring the investigator to engage in voter fraud. Some claimed he had broken the law. But since then, the Wall Street Journal has obtained audio of the call, which contradicts the Post’s report and proves that Trump did not say either of those things.  

According to a correction issued by the Post, “Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find ‘dishonesty’ there. He also told her that she had ‘the most important job in the country right now.’” 

In its initial report, The Post claimed it had confirmed the quotes with an anonymous source. At the time, other outlets such as The Hill, CNN, NBC News, and USA Today ran with the Washington Post’s story and claimed they’d corroborated the quotes with their own anonymous sources. The Post has since revealed that its source was Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state

Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner believes that this anonymous source melee raises “uncomfortable” questions: “To whom did these other news outlets speak? Did they all speak to Fuchs? How did the source or sources for NBC, ABC and USA Today get the details of the phone call wrong? Are there additional examples of the media reporting bad information provided by anonymous sources we don’t know about?”

While it’s good that the Washington Post and others have corrected the initial reports, it may be too little, too late. The corrections are all coming more than two months later. These were big stories at the time, shared rapidly around the world and widely believed. The damage has already been done. How many people will see the corrections? How many people will care? 

Mark Hemingway of RealClearInvestigations tweeted: “This kind of mistake is beyond serious. There’s zero accountability in major corporate media anymore, yet they continually insist they’re the ones holding the line on the truth. And always remember what should scare you about the media is what *doesn’t get exposed.*”

Facts matter, even if they contradict preconceived notions or personal bias. How can people rely on the mainstream media to report accurate information when multiple prominent news outlets can all get the facts so wrong?

 




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