News & Politics

Fake News: AP, CNN, NYT Twist Sondland Testimony on Ukraine

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the E.U., testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, news outlets twisted his words against President Donald Trump, in service of the Democrats’ impeachment narrative.

First, the Associated Press (AP) tweeted that Trump contradicted Sondland’s testimony. “Contradicting the testimony of his own ambassador, President Trump says he wanted ‘nothing’ from Ukraine and says the [Impeachment hearings] should be brought to an end,” the tweet read. In fact, Trump was quoting Sondland’s testimony in his remarks.

AP deleted the tweet. “An earlier tweet that didn’t make clear that President Trump was quoting from Gordon Sondland’s testimony in which he was quoting Trump has been deleted,” the news outlet admitted.

During his testimony, Sondland told Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, “I finally called the president… I believe I just asked him an open-ended question. ‘What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories and this and that. What do you want?'”

“It was a very short abrupt conversation, he was not in a good mood, and he just said, ‘I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing,’ something to that effect,” the ambassador said.

Yet this did not stop other liberal-leaning media outlets from twisting Sondland’s testimony in similar ways. During the testimony, a CNN chyron blasted the words, “SONDLAND: I PRESSURED UKRAINE AT ‘EXPRESS DIRECTION’ OF TRUMP.”

As Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtagh tweeted, the chyron was “factually wrong.”

Sondland did testify using the words “express direction,” but not in regards to allegedly pressuring Ukraine. “First, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States,” he said.

Yet The New York Times also twisted Sondland’s words in a similar manner. An online headline claimed, “‘We Followed the President’s Orders’ on Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Sondland Says.”

When the ambassador spoke about having “followed the president’s orders,” he was referring to the decision to work with Giuliani. The context for this quote is the same as the context for the quote CNN twisted.

“Secretary Perry, Ambassador  Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States,” Sondland testified. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders.”

Sondland admitted that Trump “never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings.” He described the Democrats’ assumed quid pro quo as “my own personal guess.”

At one point, Schiff attempted to put words in Sondland’s mouth, and the ambassador refused to take the bait.

Sondland was supposed to be a star witness for the Democrats, but his testimony has proved flimsy, at best.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.