Update: 27 Nov 2022
This article was originally posted on 28 Jun 2016. The claims and conclusions have been confirmed and elaborated on in the subsequent years by humble and apologetic voices of established media outlets.
From The New York Times (22 Dec 2017:
- “President Trump has escalated his fiery attacks on the news media, seizing on a recent string of mistaken reports to bolster his case that he is being persecuted by a left-leaning establishment out to bring him down and fueling a national debate over truth, accountability and a free press.“
- “Mr. Trump’s supporters said that he has a point — that such mistakes stem from a predisposition by reporters to believe the worst about him. Rather than complain when Mr. Trump points out flawed stories, they said, the news media should be more searching about its responsibility to provide balanced coverage of the president.“
Here are some other stories on this topic:
- “The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump-Russia Story” — The Intercept, by Glenn Greenwald, 20 Jan 2019 [View]
- “Not fake news, just plain wrong: Top media corrections of 2017” — Poynter, by Alexios Mantzarlis, 18 Dec 2017 [View]
The original article posted to this site is below and remains mostly unchanged from the day it was posted. It describes a subset of a larger issue: People with defined goals often engage in practices that are counterproductive and thus result in the opposite outcome of what they originally pursued. It is what could be described as counterproductive activism.
A little overzealousness, some exaggeration, and a smidgen of cheating or lies, and one ends up becoming ineffective. This is what happened in 2016. Essentially, stories were reported, then proven false, then retractions and apologies were provided from mainstream media. It happened too many times.
The following document could be summarized with this one statement:
If Donald Trump is trying to create a story about the ‘lying media’ then this might be a good time to make sure that what’s being reported by the media is honest and balanced. Those who really care, should hold them accountable, rather than denying there’s a problem – which makes it worse.
The following article is perceived by some to be critical of the media and supportive of Donald Trump, and therefore it’s thought to be biased in favor of Donald Trump. For those who think this article is biased, a companion article is offered itemizing genuine criticisms of Donald Trump: Concerns About Donald Trump as President.
The article below has had thousands of readers from around the world. The Washington Post has, in part, publicly addressed the concerns outlined below, acknowledging that sometimes the media misrepresents news about Donald Trump.
The article below essentially makes the point that lies about Donald Trump are counter-productive, often are easily disproven, and simply bolster support for Donald Trump by reinforcing the idea that he and his followers are under attack by the mainstream media. Ultimately this is an issue that everyone should care about.
Trump Mistreated, Who Cares?
By some estimates, Donald Trump has a disapproval rating about equal to that of Hillary Clinton. Both candidates have historically high negative approval ratings. So, it’s not surprising that when the news media puts a negative spin on a story about Donald Trump, not many people call them on it. For those wanting Trump to lose in November, biased news reporting by the media could be perceived as a good thing. So, who cares? You should. Here’s why…
We’re All Harmed By Media Misrepresentations
Exaggerated or false claims about Trump are actually counter productive for three reasons:
- Easily Disproven. They are very easy for people to fact check and disprove through online research and social media. Thirteen examples are listed below.
- Builds Distrust. Repeated false claims result in distrust of the media rather than distrust of Trump. In this sense they result in the opposite outcome of what was desired. If you’re lied to about Trump, and it turns out he’s better/nicer than has been reported, you’ll likely gravitate toward supporting him.
- Bad Precedent. Tolerance of bias in the media suggests it’s okay for the media to lie about the news if a reporter believes the ends justifies the means. This erodes journalistic ethical standards, which harms us all.
With regard to Trump’s disapproval rating, it’s not clear how much of that can be attributed to how he’s negatively portrayed by the media.
For the past year, using selective soundbites, the media has tried to portray Trump as a vulgar, hateful, divisive, racist, sexist, nationalistic, anti-immigrant, fear mongering bigot. The two-pronged approach also includes shaming Trump supporters into no longer supporting him, at least not publicly. Unfortunately, the personal attacks of Trump border on character defamation and slander because they aren’t sufficiently supported by facts.
Do people disapprove of the real Donald Trump or is it the case that they disapprove of who he appears to be according to media reports about him? It’s reasonable to think that people will become a Trump supporter if/when they find out they’ve been lied to by the media.
We All Depend on Honest Accurate Reporting
Whether making business decisions, financial decisions, political decisions, or just in forming our own views on social issues, we all look to the news media as a reliable source for local and world events. In recent years, it’s become common for certain reporters, news shows, and in some cases entire networks, to favor one viewpoint, candidate or party over another. Gone are the days of thinking you could get truly unbiased news from any one source.
As a result, we tend to choose news sources that reinforce our existing views rather than those that challenge us. If you’re a liberal, you might choose to watch the Rachel Maddow Show. If you’re a conservative, you might prefer Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly. If you have the time and interest, you might watch news from a variety of sources to broaden your awareness — but that’s not common in our busy society.
Biased reporting at least had been somewhat accurate and honest, even if it was spun to push for a certain conclusion on the part of the viewer. The topics and how they were presented might be manipulated, but the basic facts could be relied upon.
In the current presidential election, there’s been a new development that takes media bias one step further. Reporters feel that spreading exaggerated or false claims are justified. They get excited about a certain party or candidate and feel it’s their job to do whatever they can to help — even if it means compromising their ethics to spread lies about opposition. Over the past year, increasingly the goal of the news reporter has shifted from informing the audience to manipulating the audience. Sometimes this happens unwittingly. They receive news, spin it, and pass it on. The next person does the same, until the news is spun 180 degrees from where it began. It’s like the old game of operator, but in this case it’s not a game and people are mislead, then bad things happen.
Hillary Clinton’s Latest Ad
Hillary Clinton used a video clip from a news report in her latest attack ad about Donald Trump. The video is below. The ad states that Donald Trump is not worried about world affairs, he just cares about the sprinkler system at his golf course. The video shows a clip of Donald Trump playing golf in Scotland during his trip there — playing golf as Europe is in crisis. The only problem is that Donald Trump didn’t play golf during his trip to Scotland, that video clip was from another location two years ago.
In reality, Donald Trump was in Scotland for the opening of a golf course there. He gave a one hour news conference that has basically been censored by mainstream media. He spent about 20 minutes of the press conference talking about Brexit.
In most accounts, the mainstream media has excerpted about 10 seconds from that one hour news conference and made it seem like Trump was uninformed and self centered. Reuters provided 58 seconds of footage from the press conference, and a large part of that video featured a protester at the event. They left out the fact that Trump has a family connection with Scotland (his mother was an immigrant from there). They left out the fact that Trump was there to show support for his children who worked hard to create the course, especially Eric. The entire story was misrepresented.
The news coverage of Trump’s Scotland trip, and Hillary’s campaign video about it, show us three things:
- Indentured. Some journalists in the mainstream media are so indentured to serve politicians and parties that their supposedly unbiased news reports can be directly used in campaign propaganda without any further editing.
- Lying or Uninformed. News reporters are either intentionally lying or they are uninformed and speaking from a place of ignorance. Neither case is good.
- Processed News. In the news and in political ads, we’re being told what to think based on pre-digested regurgitated sound bites. It’s like eating highly processed foods. You wouldn’t do that to your body. Why do that to your brain? They either think we’re stupid, or want to make us that way.
Note: As of 18 Nov 2022, the video was removed from YouTube. Probably because it was so embarrassingly inaccurate, it was likely taken down by those who originally posted it to YouTube.
Fox News was the only mainstream media outlet that determined their viewers are smart enough to think on their own. So they offered the entire one-hour news conference video, unedited, without any further commentary. It was posted on the YouTube news channel of The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File and Hannity. Thanks Fox News for letting viewers think for themselves.
The ad conveys that Donald Trump was playing golf in Scotland. He actually didn’t play golf there. The video used in the ad was from somewhere else two years ago. This is Donald Trump’s response to the above ad.
Thirteen News Media Lies About Donald Trump
Here’s a list of thirteen examples where the media was wrong about Donald Trump.
- Brexit. The media told us that upon arriving in Scotland, shortly after hearing the news about the UK Referendum, Trump was happy that there might be an economic crisis because then more people would be coming to play golf at his new resort. They said he was mostly concerned about the sprinkler system. Some stories gave more time and attention to a protestor at the start of the event than they did to Trump’s press conference. At 19:50 into his press conference he answers questions about Brexit. He spoke for about 20 minutes on the topic of Brexit. The media told us that when Trump was asked about Brexit he replied, “There’s nothing to talk about.” In reality, the press conference video is about one hour long and he had plenty to say. The sound bite provided to us form the mainstream media was a few seconds at 23:17 into the press conference.
- Crying Babies. Trump was reported in numerous ‘reputable’ mainstream media outlets as having had a baby removed from a rally because the baby was crying. This is a very sore issue with any parent and particularly with women who are often treated poorly if they have a fussy baby. Such behavior is seen as insensitive to women and uncaring of children. Trump’s position in national polls dropped by 10 points due in part to this story. Later, the Washington Post published a formal apology seemingly on behalf of numerous news agencies. This is an excerpt from their lengthy article: “Trump has been unfairly maligned here. We can see why some reporters ran with this tale, based only on the videotape, but it’s good example of why everything must be checked out.” (Washington Post, 6 August 2016)
- David Duke. The media has repeatedly reported that KKK member David Duke endorsed Donald Trump. Here’s the problem, David Duke left the KKK 40 years ago, and he’s gone on record stating that he has NOT endorsed Donald Trump. To imply that Trump is aligned with racist and violent hate groups is slanderous. He obviously can’t control who endorses him. There are a variety of reasons why high profile controversial people like Louis Farrakhan support Trump — given that Hillary Clinton is the alternative. It doesn’t mean that Trump agrees with the views and actions of everyone who has endorsed him or supported him.
- Immigrants. The media tells us that Donald Trump hates immigrants. To state that Trump is anti-immigrant seems questionable considering that Trump’s wife Melania is a Slovenian immigrant, and his previous wife Ivana was a Czech immigrant. Trump’s mother was a Scottish immigrant. So, Trump has always been part of an immigrant family. He’s gone on record as saying that immigrants build this nation and have made America great. His concern is with some illegal immigrants who come here with the intention of breaking the law and harming others.
- Isolationist Nationalism. Because of his America First proclamation, Trump is accused of being an isolationist. Yet, his numerous international business dealings demonstrate ongoing working relationships with people of various nationalities. His America First initiative emphasizes that we should not neglect veterans and U.S. citizens for the sake of nation-building elsewhere.
- Louisiana Flood. Throughout the duration of his campaign, Donald Trump has sometimes departed from traditional political wisdom and spent time with marginalized people who are unlikely to be able to donate millions to his campaign. At a critical moment during the campaign, less than 100 days away from the November election, he cancelled his campaign plans, and instead on August 19, chose to visit the people of Louisiana impacted by a flood there. Trump’s response became an embarrassing contrast to Barack Obama who was on vacation playing golf during the crisis. As a result, in an effort to defend Obama, and attack Trump, the media spun the story in a way that implied Trump wasn’t welcome in Louisiana, and that the Democrat Governor didn’t want him there: “We welcome him to LA, but not for a photo-op… Instead we hope he’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.” (source) The implication was that Trump didn’t care about the flood victims, but simply wanted to get his photo taken with suffering people. Here’s the rest of the story that the mainstream media was ultimately embarrassed into disclosing. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said of Trump’s visit: “Because it helped to shine a spotlight on Louisiana and on the dire situation that we have here … it was helpful… I also appreciated the good phone call, the conversation that I had with Gov. Pence, who was sincere and genuine when he called, and we spoke for a long time on Friday morning, about their desire to be helpful.” (source) Quite a different picture than was initially portrayed.
- Mexicans. The media referred to Trump’s comments about Mexicans as “the ‘Mexicans are rapists’ comments” in an effort to make it seem like Trump believes all Mexicans are rapists. Trump was not talking about all Mexicans. Trump was not talking about Mexican immigrants who come to the U.S. legally. He was talking about some of the drug dealers and gang members who come into the country illegally for the purpose of illegal activity, who after getting arrested and released multiple times for multiple crimes continue to engage in illegal activity. What Trump has actually said about Mexico and Mexicans is this: “I love the Mexican people. I love Mexico.” He didn’t say Mexicans are rapists. The ‘Mexicans are rapists’ story was so convincingly told that numerous corporations cut ties with Trump over that incident. It’s a clear case of defamation where a misrepresentation was made and damages were incurred.
- Mexican Judge. In a climate where Trump is portrayed as believing ‘Mexicans are rapists’ it’s understandable that Trump would be concerned about the impartiality of the judge (Gonzalo Curiel) who was overseeing his Trump University case, since that judge is of Mexican heritage. Again, it’s not the case that Trump is racist (Mexican isn’t a race), he’s been portrayed as a racist, and understands that some people believe he is racist, and they have acted on that in very vicious and retaliatory ways. It’s that simple. This is made clear in the CNN report on the issue.
- Minorities and Women. Anyone with a few minutes of free time for fact checking can easily browse YouTube and find numerous videos of Latinos, Muslims, African Americans, women and immigrants who support Donald Trump who speak persuasively and passionately about why they support Trump. Listening to the diverse voices of these supporters it’s not difficult to conclude that Trump isn’t racist, nor is he divisive, but he’s bringing people together under a common goal.
- Orlando. The media repeatedly and loudly stated that Trump’s first response to the Orlando shooting was to congratulate himself on being right about Islamic terrorism. They used this excerpt from one of his tweets, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” They left out the rest of that tweet which continued with these words, “I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” Prior to those statements however was his actual first response to the Orlando shooting which was this tweet, “Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?” He was horrified like everyone else. His subsequent comment about being right on Islamic terrorism, was to emphasize that we need to take meaningful action.
- Saddam Hussein. The media reported that Trump was praising Saddam Hussein. In reality, he was saying Saddam was a very bad guy, but at least the situation in Iraq was better under him than after we moved in. Read the Washington Post report “Trump, Saddam, and why people mistrust the media.” (6 July 2016)
- Star of David. The Trump campaign re-tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of money, stating she’s the most corrupt politician in history. The image featured a clipart graphic some claimed looked like the Star of David. These critics seemed to be claiming that whenever the Star of David appears near money it must be a subliminal message about how corrupt the Jews are with their money. Not sure why that was the first thing to enter their head. For a deeper analysis of this, read “Rorschach Test: Understanding the Donald Trump Star of David Controversy.”
- Womanizer. An article published by the New York Times featured a 1964 yearbook photo of Trump holding a girl’s hand, and that photo was used as evidence of Trump being a womanizer. The article was subsequently criticized by readers, and then debunked by one of the primary women featured in the article. Trump’s organization has more women than men in executive positions, and of the women who know him well, many speak highly of him as someone who empowers women. It’s clear that Trump has said hurtful things about/to some women in the past. He admits this. What’s not clear is the extent to which this is the way he deals with all woman in his life, 99% of the time. If he speaks respectfully to 99% of women 99% of the time, it’s probably not fair to describe his character based on 1% of his behavior.
Something that the above media attacks all have in common is that they are attempts at character defamation and slander — rather than focusing attention on the actual serious issues facing our country. This dumbs down the news. This is a disservice to the country.
Initially Trump’s hair and skin color were the focus of much attention in the media. For the past year, using selective soundbites, the media has tried to portray Trump as a vulgar, hateful, divisive, racist, sexist, nationalistic, anti-immigrant, irreligious, fear mongering bigot (as is illustrated in the above points). The two-pronged approach also includes shaming Trump supporters into no longer supporting him, at least not publicly, because they will be guilty by association.
The personal attacks of Trump on the part of the media border on character defamation and slander because they aren’t sufficiently supported by facts, and they are crafted to do harm. There have been threats and physical attacks on Trump and his family. It’s reasonable to assume that the media misrepresentation of Trump is to blame for these attacks.
People may continue to dislike Trump, but hopefully they will do so based on facts about his track record, his proposed policies, and prominent aspects of his character — not on misrepresentations in the media. Let’s try to refrain from demonizing people and their family members, and instead stick to the issues.
A Message from the Author
I was surprised this morning to see that Ann Coulter had shared my article on Twitter. Many thanks to Ann and those among her over one million supporters who have shared my article via Twitter and elsewhere. I appreciate that, and all of your kind comments.
I thought it might be helpful to share a little about my own views as a context and background for the above article.
With regard to partisan politics, I consider myself an independent. I care about specific issues that I don’t see comprehensively addressed by any single party. To me, every party is bringing some important matters to the forefront: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green. There’s also a matter of competency and trust which transcends party. We need people we trust who can do the job. So, these factors cause me to be supportive of a broad range of people in public service regardless of their affiliations.
I’m inspired by politicians on the left and the right who challenge their own parties, the establishment, and the status quo when change is needed. For this reason, I find Donald Trump a refreshing break from politics as usual.
I think Republicans deserve some credit for broadening their tent to include Donald Trump. Someone who is very outspoken about the Iraq war, critical of our foreign trade policies, very critical of respected leaders in the Republican party, thought of as a liberal, and considered by some to be a little rough around the edges sometimes. I just assumed Republicans would push him out the same way that Bernie Sanders and his followers were marginalized. I was impressed that they allowed democracy to unfold, and let their party move toward becoming a party of the people, by the people, and for the people.
I’ve been a Bernie Sanders supporter over the past year because he asked challenging questions of the Democrat party and Hillary Clinton, but I also think Donald Trump should be respected and appreciated for what he’s brought to the national discussion, echoing many of the same concerns that Bernie Sanders has raised about trade and special interests influencing politics. I’m impressed with and appreciative of the entire Trump family who have really been a source of inspiration — if you look beyond the selective twisted sound bites to understand more fully what they are really saying. They are very articulate, polite, fair, hard working, creative, innovative, and seem to be kind people who care about our country. So, it’s really bothered me that Donald Trump would be maligned by the media in a distasteful and dishonest way which includes misrepresentations about his family and his supporters. It’s just wrong, no matter who you are or what your politics are.
To better understand Donald Trump, I went back and watched many hours of talk shows and interviews from over the past 30 years to present, including most of his speeches in their entirety. I watched videos of his many supporters share how Donald Trump inspires them. I feel that helped me have a more complete and balanced view of Donald Trump.
I plan to continue to do what I can to set the record straight when Donald Trump or anyone else is lied about by the media. I’ll continue to be supportive of competent and trustworthy politicians and leaders regardless of their political affiliations. I’ll hope for and work toward transformational positive change and improvement across all parties. As you’ll see from this website, I try to be fair and balanced by addressing a broad range of topics from a variety of viewpoints. That’s just what I do. I don’t expect everyone to take this approach. It’s just what I enjoy and find challenging as a writer. Below among the comments, you’ll find some suggestions from readers pointing out typos or areas for improvement. I welcome these. As a writer, I appreciate workshopping and improving what I do. So, thanks to those of you who have contributed below.
Thanks for taking time to read the article and visit my site.
I wish you the best,
Comments or Corrections
Please use the comments area at the bottom of this page or our contact page to provide any suggestions for correcting or improving this article. We always welcome suggestions. When there seem to be a recurring theme or message in comments, we like to acknowledge that and respond if needed. Thanks!
Note: This article has been updated since it’s original posting to include additional news stories to keep it current.
Whatever party or movement you belong to, it’s important to fact check the news you promote. Otherwise, misleading statement can erode public support, respect, and trust for your group.
Search Results Skewed to Support Clinton
The visual below is using some humor to address a serious issue – favoritism and censorship among search engine content providers. We feel okay about this as long as it’s a candidate we support, but what happens next time? We all need to speak up against this.
Trump Ignored Melania
Here’s an example of a misleading social media meme. This was found on Facebook with over 359,000 shares.
The following video was posted in the comments by someone who spotted this as a misleading post. Their comment stated: “See the whole ugly video..” It’s this kind of obvious slander that’s easily spotted, and makes those who post it seem duplicitous.
So, the remainder of this page is for those of you who are analytics geeks. I’m always curious to learn more about how widely read various articles are. This information is helpful to myself and others who work in content writing, marketing, promotions, politics, advertising, web design, etc. I provide it openly here for others who may be interested.
One of the reasons I evaluate analytics, and social media responses, is to get an idea of how a story is trending and what response, if any, could be needed. When a story gets popular for whatever reason, it may trend for a few hours or perhaps a few days. It’s interesting to study those trends. Sometimes it’s necessary to correct a story, or clarify based on reader responses. If an article is well received, it’s nice to thank people for their comments. It makes online content more alive and interactive when it’s responsive, in real-time, to reader responses.
11:00 AM – Right now it’s about 11 AM CT US, about one hour after Ann Coulter’s share of this article on Twitter. Ann has 896K followers. Her Tweet of the article has 333 likes and 258 shares. At present, Ann’s Tweet is what we might call the social media epicenter of interest in this article which was otherwise going unnoticed until this morning. There have been about 2,500 people who have read this article in the past hour. There are over 1,000 shares on Facebook. The map below shows general geographic information representing the most recent 200 U.S. visitors.
7:00 PM – Ann’s Tweet of the article now has 548 likes and 422 retweets. Facebook shares are now at 3,000. Total page visitors 5,549. I think the traffic is winding down a bit, but that was fun to experience. I’m sure these numbers are unimpressive to those with larger more popular sites, but I had fun seeing how the article trended today. Thanks everybody!
Ultimately this story had about 10,000 views in the first 24-hours.
In addition to the comments below, additional comments from email or elsewhere on the web will be added here.
Gary K (Facebook, 13 July 2016 @ 2:30 PM CT)
Greg, I appreciated this posting because, as a Bernie supporter, we saw similar media dismissal and worse. However, the media did get things right about Trump:
1) Trump University and the scam it is (Source: National Review)
2) Trump’s many vacillations on what he stands for/against (Source: New York Times)
3) He has been a multi-failure businessman (Source: Washington Post)
Not sure if you got your premise from reading this The Atlantic article, but it has a decent perspective too.
Below are a few of the Twitter comments.
Do people disapprove of the real Donald Trump or of the lying media stories about him? 11 media lies about Trump – https://t.co/I1vW3kMHk4
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 13, 2016
— Queen of the Obvious (@sam_atbo) July 13, 2016
— Greg (@GregoryKoch21) July 13, 2016
— Mike W (@mikew6161) July 13, 2016
— Harriet caldwell (@Haddy54Harriet) July 13, 2016
— J. Kent Tolbert (@jkentt1) July 13, 2016
Below is a criticism of those who say that the media is biased against Donald Trump. The message below was not a response to the above article, but a general comment online about this phenomenon, so it seemed relevant to share here.
— mrento (@MarkWRenton) August 24, 2016