Tweetstorm Fuels "Fake News"
Can you stand one more screed about the battle of words between Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel and President Donald Trump?
Good. Because that’s what you’re getting today.
For those who slept all weekend, here’s what happened:
On Friday night, Trump held a rally at Pensacola Bay Center. As is often the case with these events, the crowd was large and boisterous.
Our Tweeter-in-Chief was so chuffed that he boasted about the turnout with a 5:41 a.m. bulletin Saturday:
GREAT EVENING last night in Pensacola, Florida. Arena was packed to the rafters, the crowd was loud, loving and really smart. They definitely get what’s going on. Thank you, Pensacola!
In response to the president’s bragging, The Post’s Weigel Tweeted a pic of the Pensacola arena with a sea of empty seats and just four words:
Packed to the rafters.
When you lob a verbal grenade like that one, you’d better have your facts straight.
In his apparent haste, the reporter didn’t verify the time his photo was shot, which, it turned out, was before the rally started and while the crowd was ambling in.
The response from Trump supporters and the president was swift and merciless. They said this was more proof that the mainstream media was willing to spread falsehoods to hurt the president.
Weigel apologized and said it was “very fair” to call him out. The reporter said he took down his Tweet after about 20 minutes.
The president likes to get the last word, though, and he promptly posted one more message. This one called for Weigel to be fired.
It’s unlikely Weigel will be sacked over the Tweet. In fact, by demanding his ouster, Trump practically guaranteed Weigel’s job security at the newspaper.
In all the debate about the incident, one basic question has not been answered: Why would a political reporter on one of the country’s top newspapers be so quick to send a picture of an empty arena to his 395K Twitter followers.
One reason to merrily Tweet such a photo would be to push the narrative that the president is unpopular and that his supporters are deserting him. Oh, and that Trump chronically exaggerates.
That wasn’t true. Last Friday in Pensacola, anyway.
In fact, it was generally a bad week for the credibility of the national press corps. An ABC investigative reporter was suspended over an erroneous report concerning Trump and CNN had to retract a story that falsely claimed the Trump campaign was given the WikiLeaks DNC emails before they were released to the public.
With Trump and his supporters on alert for “fake news” it’s more important than ever that news organizations and their reporters get their stories right.
And no, the fact that the president has been untruthful does not give the press corps permission to be sloppy.