Nothing triggers liberal mainstream media types more than being accused of being purveyors of “fake news.” But stunningly enough, that hasn’t stopped them from…well…being purveyors of fake news.
The latest example features Ibtihaj Muhammad, the New Jersey native who recently became the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal for the United States. Muhammad, a vocal Trump critic, answered a journalist’s question with so much ambiguity it seemed designed to be deceptive. Regardless, several major media outlets jumped on her story without verifying it and now have egg all over their faces.
Muhammad, a lifelong American citizen, claimed in an interview Tuesday that she was detained “just a few weeks ago” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. She said she was held for a few hours without explanation.
It’s important to recognize from the get-go that Muhammad didn’t put a hard date on when the alleged detaining occurred (this will come up later). It’s also probably worth noting that she is an outspoken Trump critic, and that she is extremely displeased with his executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries.
Here’s a transcript of what Muhammad told Popsugar’s Lindsay Miller on Feb. 7 about the alleged incident with customs agents [emphases added]:
Popsugar: Do you know anyone who was directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban?
Ibtihaj Muhammad: Well, I personally was held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.
Unfortunately, I know that people talk about this having a lot to do with these seven countries in particular, but I think the net is cast a little bit wider than we know. And I’m included in that as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.
A rule of thumb for responsible journalists is, “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” So wouldn’t a responsible journalist want to be even more skeptical of an obvious partisan? You would think so, right? Well, you would be wrong. Journalists were so eager to virtue signal their outrage and despair over this supposed injustice that Time, the UK’s Independent, the Daily Mail, the New York Daily News, The Hill, and of course Sports Illustrated and ESPN all spread the story far and wide before verifying it. Specifically, they should have double-checked whether she was detained after Trump’s travel ban went into place, after Trump was inaugurated, or perhaps while Obama was still president.
As it happens, according to Muhammad herself, her purported “detention” took place in December while Obama was still president.
Muhammad clarified several days after her Feb. 7 interview that she meant December 2016 when she said, “just a few weeks ago.”
“Thanks to all who reached out regarding the December incident at customs. I will continue be a voice for all impacted by profiling & bigotry,” she said in a tweet on Feb. 11.
Thanks to all who reached out regarding the December incident at customs. I will continue be a voice for all impacted by profiling & bigotry
— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) February 11, 2017
A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has not yet responded to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment, so it’s not certain that she was even detained.
As the Examiner notes, “Muhammad isn’t blameless in all of this.”
A less-than-charitable person would suspect her of being purposefully vague and imprecise. She was asked a simple “yes or no” question about the president’s immigration order. Instead of giving a simple answer, she provided an anecdote involving the very misleading use of “just a few weeks ago.”
A less-than-charitable person might also suspect that MSM types who share these kinds of fake stories don’t even care if they get it wrong at first because they know another ironclad rule of journalism: The initial, mistaken information will be retweeted much, much more than any subsequent correction.
And to a liberal, agenda-driven news media, the “narrative” is all that matters.