Thanks to the media Donald Trump’s lies gain a massively bigger audience, and far more credibility, than Trump alone could provide. A Media Matters study finds that 65 percent of the time that major media outlets tweet about misinformation from Trump, they fail to fact-check or rebut it. At that rate, the outlets in the study were repeating Trump’s lies 19 times a day.
Nearly a third of the tweets about Trump from outlets like ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, MSNBC, and the Associated Press “referenced a false or misleading statement” according to The Washington Post database. And of those, nearly two-thirds did nothing to set the record straight. That means tweets like “’”The wall is very, very on its way. It’s happening as we speak. We’re building as we speak.’ President Trump spoke to members of the Major County Sheriffs of America and Major Cities Chiefs Association,” from The Hill. That is a lie Trump has told 160 times, by The Washington Post’s count, but The Hill just quoted it straight.
Not all news organizations are created equal, and The Hill ”was by far the worst offender we reviewed, producing more than 40 percent of the tweets that pushed Trump’s misinformation without context over the entire study. It promoted Trump’s falsehoods without disputing them 175 times — an average of more than eight per day.” ABC News and CBS News were also top offenders.
All organizations performed their worst when Trump was speaking informally at a press gaggle or pool spray, with a whopping 92% of lies going uncontested. But they didn’t do a whole lot better with interviews or tweets, failing to fact-check around three-quarters of the lies in those. By contrast, news organizations put fact-checking resources into the State of the Union and did a comparatively good job noting where Trump pushed misinformation.
Some news organizations do a better job, either not tweeting out Trump’s lies to begin with or including a dose of reality, as The Washington Post did with “Analysis: Trump claims a wall is needed to stop human trafficking. No data back up his claim.” But the thing is, the better performance across most outlets for the State of the Union shows that they know how to do it. They just mostly don’t bother on a day to day basis. Being the first to report what Trump said takes a back seat to contrasting what he said with reality.