Originally Published: June 5, 2018 6 a.m.
The problem with the “fake news” meme is that such fabrications exist in two places — online at sites dedicated to creating falsehoods and mainstream news outlets.
The point of documenting the following recent egregious example is to humbly caution what I believe to be the majority of good reporters covering national politics.
Trump is so replete with gaffes, faux pas and “offensive” phrases that reporters really don’t need to create provable fictions about him. To do so simply adds to the list of falsehoods, thus further eroding trust in journalism.
While conservatives and Trump populists tub-thump “See? I told you so,” perhaps the more meaningful exercise for these specific journalists is to examine why they either heard something that wasn’t said or they created easily disputed fables, thus ruining their own reputations.
The most recent example of this need to fabricate comes from Julie Hirschfield Davis at the New York Times, Andrea Mitchell at NBC and Scott Neuman at NPR, who all reported that Trump called all or some immigrants “animals.”
That wasn’t true. These reporters either knew it, or they’re incapable of separating their own biases from the truth. Either way, their fabrications, presented as “news reporting,” continues to debase the hard work of real reporters in telling readers, viewers, and listeners the truth.
Imagine you are at a roundtable event where officials are discussing immigration laws with the President. At this meeting, Fresno County Sheriff, Margaret Mims, expresses her frustrations with various and conflicting state and federal laws preventing California sheriffs from protecting citizens from criminals who are illegal immigrants.
Read this verbatim exchange and decide for yourself if the President is calling “immigrants,” “some immigrants” or “MS-13” and other gang members “animals.”
Sheriff Mims: “Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.”
Trump: “It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.”
Mims: “It’s a disgrace.”
Trump: “And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.”
Mims: “Thank you. There could be an MS-13 gang member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.”
Trump: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”
Let’s go beyond the headlines at NPR, NBC and the New York Times falsely claiming Trump called some unauthorized immigrants “animals.”
Davis falsely began her New York Times piece with, “President Trump lashed out at undocumented immigrant.”
Truth: He referred to murderous gang members as “animals.”
At NPR, Neuman began his piece with, “President Trump ... compared some people who illegally cross the U.S. southern border to “animals.”
Truth: Trump called murderous gang members who rape and slaughter innocent people with machetes “animals,” not “some people.”
Then, these outlets and others tweeted more “fake news.”
NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell “reported” on Twitter that California Gov. Jerry Brown performed a “tough takedown” of President Trump after he called “people trying to get into the country ‘animals’ not people.”
The New York Times tweeted, “Trump lashed out at undocumented immigrants during a White House meeting, calling those trying to breach the country’s borders “animals.”
Sadly, these are all lies.
Call it a lie of omission if you like. Call it propaganda. Regardless, it’s not the truth.
Presuming these reporters disapprove of Trump enough to compromise their careers, perhaps they should consider the fact that such fabrications embolden his base.
Rick Jensen is an annoying, award-winning Delaware talk show host and equally annoying national columnist. Email rick@DBCMedia.com.