Although the mainstream media keeps a close eye on President Trump’s Twitter feed for his thoughts on Iran, North Korea, or other hot-button issues, along with the controversy du jour, journalists may have missed his tweet about fake news awards.
The president supposedly will announce the 2017 award winners in the “dishonest and corrupt media” in various categories on Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern time. If this is meant to be taken literally rather than satire, it’s unlikely that Trump himself, rather than staff, came up with the winners, so it’s not as if the president would be taking a lot of time away from more important matters in the Oval Office. That said, President Trump is an avid consumer of media and is hardly shy about chiming in about how he is portrayed.
Politico admitted that it is unsure how this fake news awards ceremony will play out.
“It is unclear how the president intends to carry out the unprecedented gesture against the news media. But in November, Trump floated the idea of awarding a ‘fake news trophy’ to media outlets to mark their ‘distorted’ coverage of his presidency.”
Trump has been feuding with most media outlets even before he took office in January, 2017. Whether you like or hate Trump, or find yourself in between, and/or even if you believe the tone of the coverage is justified, the media does have a tendency to run with anti-Trump stories based on anonymous or sketchy sourcing. The reporting of this nature often has to be walked back. Last month, for example, CNN had to clarify a report that claimed that Trump campaign, including Donald Trump, Jr., supposedly was offered early access to a WikiLeaks hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.
According to a CNN exclusive that several other news organizations also picked up, someone sent Trump, Jr. and others an email that offered a decryption key and a link for the purposes of a sneak peek into the WikiLeaks data. It turned out, however, that the CNN exclusive was a non-story in that the random email was dated September 14, 2016, not September 4, as CNN originally claimed. WikiLeaks had already released the DNC leaks into the public domain on September 13, the day before, so the CNN exclusive, which it promoted for hours on end, was actually insignificant.
Also last month, ABC News suspended chief investigative reporter Brian Ross for a month without pay for airing a false story that candidate Donald Trump directed Gen. Michael Flynn to contact the Russians and that Flynn would testify to that effect. About seven hours later, ABC News admitted that the report contained a serious error in that the contact occurred when Trump was already the president-elect, which makes a big difference. That form of post-election outreach is customary in international diplomacy and was routine in prior incoming administrations as well.
From the standpoint of President Trump supporters, this kind of incorrect reporting suggests that the mainstream media will rush to publish anything that will make the president look bad or undermine his agenda without engaging in the appropriate due diligence. It’s also fair to suggest that Trump often steps on his own populist political message with his bombastic, combative personality and unconventional, confrontational communication style.
According to a compilation by the Washington Examiner, the mainstream press made about 100 Trump-related errors last year in its political reporting.
“[A]n unusually large number of 2017 stories, tweets and headlines turned out either to be overhyped, inconclusive, misleading, half-true, or flat-out false.”
In a late December interview with the New York Times, Trump quipped that the liberal-leaning media wants him to win reelection in 2020 for their bottom line.
“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times…So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”
In a recent appearance on CNN (which the president has famously labeled very fake news), journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of Watergate fame raised questions about the media’s hostility toward Trump, a former Democrat and independent who ran for president as a first-time candidate on the Republican ticket.
A strident Trump foe, Bernstein said that the media can sometimes be “petty,” while Woodward said, “In lots of reporting, particularly on television commentary, there’s a kind of self-righteousness and smugness and people kind of ridiculing the president,” the New York Post reported.
A Pew Research Study found that 62 percent of the media coverage of the Trump presidency out of the gate was negative. The findings were derived from sifting through 3,000-plus news stories from a total of 24 media outlets that included broadcast and cable networks as well as news websites and print newspapers. Similarly, a report from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy similarly suggested that media coverage in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency was overwhelmingly negative on all issues based on an evaluation of CBS, CNN, NBC, Fox News, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and three European news outlets. The trend lines in the coverage by the news media — which almost across the board was convinced that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in the 2016 election — would appear to not have changed much one year into the Trump presidency.
The term “fake news” is subject to interpretation. Sometimes it means bad information, but it could be applied to content with which the consumer disagrees.
Last June, a poll by Harvard University’s Center for American Political Studies in collaboration with the polling firm Harris Insights and Analytics found that about two-thirds of American voters regardless of their political ideology believe that fake news permeates the mainstream media.