Accuracy in Media

Mainstream media seems certain President Trump is lying about what he said to the families of the four soldiers killed in Niger.

A congresswoman from Florida said she was in the car with the mother of the victim when Trump called to convey his condolences. She said he told the mother her son “knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.”

Trump denied making this statement, later tweeting, “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

The congresswoman, Fredericka Wilson, doubled down on her story. While the mother did not directly contradict the president, she said, “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband” and that it bothered her that the president didn’t seem to know her son’s name.

While the mother did not directly contradict the president, she said, “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” and that it bothered her that the president did not seem to know her son’s name.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, said he was listening in as Trump spoke to the mother and the call seemed “completely respectful.” The president’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said, “The hardest job he has is making calls like that. I think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done” in “politicizing” Trump’s condolence calls.

The Post pushed its own story: The president’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “admitted” Trump had not taped the calls with the bereaved families. 

“Sanders noted that other top officials, including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, were on the call. But that’s not proof – or anything close to it. The only thing that could be proof would be a recording of the call.”

In 2012 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making calls to families of those who had given their lives in service of the country that contained suspicious information. Rather than questioning the story, the media searched for any scrap of evidence that supported believing her.

After Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, Clinton reportedly told parents that a video – the trailer for a movie made by a little-known filmmaker that insulted Muslims – had set in motion the anger and chain of events that led to the deaths of those four Americans.

The story, as we found out later from emails revealed in her secret server investigation, was untrue. Clinton knew full well no video was responsible on that night – she even told her daughter, Chelsea, as much in a private email.

Nearly four months later, in early January 2016, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact-checker, assessed Clinton’s claims. He recounted how George Stephanopoulos, who worked in her husband’s White House, asked gently, “The family members, as you know, say you told them it was by a filmmaker, you’d go after the filmmaker … Did you tell them it was not the film? And what’s your response?”

“No,” she said. “You know, look, I understand the continuing grief at the loss that parents experienced with the loss of these four brave Americans. And I did testify, as you know, for 11 hours. And I answered all of these questions.”

A few weeks later, Tom McLaughlin, a columnist for the Daily Sun in Concord, N.H., went at Clinton again.

“Somebody’s lying. Who is it?” he said.

“Not me,” Clinton responded. “That’s all I can tell you. I can’t recite for you everything that was in a conversation where people were distraught, the president and the vice president, we were all making the rounds talking to people, listening to people. I was in a very difficult position because we have not yet said two of the four dead were CIA … This was a part of the fog of war.”

“This is obviously a difficult issue to fact check,” Kessler wrote in the Post article. “The conversations were not recorded – and took place more than three years ago. Memories, especially of conversations, have a way of shifting over time. Few people ever agree exactly what was said – or even who said what.”

Clinton’s memory was good enough for them, but Trump’s wasn’t.

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