Accuracy in Media

Following a pattern that has existed since President Trump took office, the Washington Post on Wednesday ran a story, based on no evidence and no on-the-record interviews, saying the president had lost his cool and was acting irrationally on his recent trip to Paris.

Trump’s trips abroad have generated a series of these stories, which offer no corroborating witnesses and attempt to reposition the newspaper as a reliable chronicler of presidential actions. The latest checks all the boxes – foreign trip, anonymous sources, action on Air Force 1 that no one can verify.

In “Five Days of Fury: Inside Trump’s Paris temper, election woes and staff upheaval,” Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker claim Trump is ready to fire an assortment of people, hire a man no one wants to see get a senior position in the White House and berated world leaders in uncontrolled fashion.

A “testy” call with British Prime Minister Theresa May “set the tone for five days of fury – evident in Trump’s splenetic tweets and described in interviews with 14 senior administration officials, outside Trump confidants and foreign diplomats, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”

The Post reported May called Trump to congratulate on victory in the midterm elections, “but her appeal to the American president’s vanity was met with an ornery outburst.”

Trump “berated May,” the Post offered without evidence, “for not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran. He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries. May has endured Trump’s churlish temper before, but still her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood, according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation.”

It does not say who the U.S and European officials are or who briefed them or how the briefer knew the content of the call. It did admit much later in the story the White House had not announced the call with May nor provided an official readout … but did repeat that “U.S. and European officials” – again unidentified and thus unable to be verified as being in the know about any of these conversations – “said in interviews that Trump’s mood was sour and his conversation with May was acrimonious.”

And that wasn’t all. During his 43 hours in Parish, Trump also “brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a ‘big victory.’ He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I.”

No evidence was offered to support any aspect of that claim, and no attribution was supplied in the story.

The Post also claimed the president “was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron’s public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack.” It offered no evidence to support that Trump said this or that he considered the French president’s remarks a personal attack.

Instead, it used a quote from Douglas Brinkley, a college historian with no connection to the White House or any of its policymakers and no inside knowledge of its workings.

“He’s just a bull carrying his own china shop with him whenever he travels the world,” Brinkley is quoted as saying.

Then, there was the palace intrigue. Kirstjen Nielson, secretary of Homeland Security, is on the way out. So, perhaps, is Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose departure has been rumored off and on almost since he assumed the role. Nick Ayers, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, is said to be a candidate to take over for Kelly, who has not been fired.

But aides “filed into the president’s private cabin to lobby against” him, according to the Post, which again provided no attribution and no indication of how it knew what transpired in the president’s private cabin.

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