News & Politics

The Media Is Still Guilty in the Fake Trump Quotes Scandal

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs has been revealed as the source of the fake Trump quotes used in a January 9 Washington Post story that accused the then-president of pressuring Georgia election investigator Frances Watson to “find the fraud” and that she’d be a “national hero” if she did. According to the “bombshell” report, Trump’s actions may have amounted to obstruction.

Fuchs has defended her characterization of the call to the Washington Post, saying that her words were an interpretation, and not meant to be direct quotes. “I believe the story accurately reflected the investigator’s interpretation of the call. The only mistake here was in the direct quotes, and they should have been more of a summary.”

Regardless of whether Fuchs intentionally or unintentionally deceived the media, the fake story should have never happened, but the anti-Trump media ran with the poorly-sourced story, just like they’d done throughout Trump’s presidency, with a complete disregard for anything resembling journalism ethics and standards.

Only one uncorroborated source was used by the Washington Post

The Washington Post based the substance of their report on Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs’ account of the call. That’s it. According to their report,  they attempted to contact election investigator Frances Watson, but she “did not respond to repeated requests for comment.”

If there were other attempts to corroborate Fuchs’ account of the call, they are not mentioned in the story and raise questions about the Washington Post‘s own efforts to verify the facts before publication. The story should have died right there. Without anything to back up Fuchs’ account, the Washington Post should have nixed the story.

Other media outlets claimed to verify the quotes

Perhaps the biggest part of this scandal is the way other media outlets claimed to have “independently verified” the original report through their own anonymous sources. It is possible that they “verified” the story with Fuchs herself, but if she was the source for these other outlets, that would not “independently verify” the original report. The same source simply cannot corroborate her own accusation. Perhaps they didn’t know she was the source of the original story? Well, if Fuchs did speak to other outlets about the Washington Post story, it would have been extremely dishonest of her to not reveal that she was the anonymous source of the original report, and it would have been incumbent upon them to ask her if she was before claiming to have independently verified it.

Curiously, Jordan Fuchs publicly corroborated the Washington Post story she served as the anonymous source for. “We can confirm the events in the Washington Post story,” she told NBC News the same day that the Post story broke. It is not clear whether or not Fuchs told NBC News that she was the source in the original story.

The Washington Post won’t retract the article

While many places have likened The Washington Post’s correction of their original story as a de facto retraction, the paper disputes this. In a statement, the Post says, “We corrected the story and published a separate news story last week — at the top of our site and on the front page — after we learned that our source had not been precise in relaying then President Trump’s words. We are not retracting our January story because it conveyed the substance of Trump’s attempt to influence the work of Georgia’s elections investigators.”

When have we heard something like this before? It sounds an awful lot like Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” excuse following the September 2004 bombshell story that relied on fake documents making damaging claims about George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard and how his family connections got him off the hook.

They may have done the right thing by publishing a correction, but a recording of the call disproving their report had been released. They literally had no choice but to amend their story with a correction. That was the least they could do. They refused to retract the article based on the “fake but accurate” standard that seems to only apply to negative stories about Republicans, not Democrats.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trumpand the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter, GabFacebookMeWeHeroesRumble, and CloutHub.

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