The bad news is, last week there was another blatantly false story launched against President Trump. The good news is, it was quickly dismantled as the lie that it was within a week of it appearing.
The Atlantic magazine, with much fanfare, printed a story that on its face was a caricature of the president that could only be born from the addled minds of Trump-hating keyboard warriors and fired political operatives. Centered on a presidential visit France in 2018 to honor the fallen of World War I, Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of The Atlantic magazine, wrote in his imagined Trump-killing opus:
“When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed the rain for the last-minute decision, saying ‘the helicopter couldn’t fly’ and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true. Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead.” The story also inexplicably accused the president of saying horrific things about our war dead. The president vehemently denied every accusation, noting of what he is accused “only an animal” would say.
Then just a few days later, Mr. Goldberg conceded on CNN that the central claim was probably wrong, and that the White House insistence that cancelling the trip was due only to the weather, was likely true. The Federalist reported, “On Sunday, Atlantic Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg admitted the White House’s account that President Trump’s trip to a cemetery of fallen World War I soldiers in France in 2018 was modified due to bad weather is probably accurate. ‘I’m sure all of those things are true,’ Goldberg told CNN in an interview on Friday when asked to respond to evidence a story he published saying otherwise is false.”
But if his anonymous sources’ premise of the trip being cancelled is not true, how do we know that the rest is not a lie?
Inevitably, the accusations struck the skeptical reader as the kind of thing the fired and miserable would imagine while sitting at a bar on their third martini while pounding the table. It’s likely also enraging that Mr. Trump’s success over the last three-and-a-half years makes them all look like fools.
When first confronted about that, he explained to CNN it was necessary because, “They don’t want to be inundated with angry tweets and all the rest.”
Journalists know their reporting is for the public, who are final arbiters of its value. Saying of anonymous gossip, “I can be trusted, I trust my sources, so you can trust them,” is the height of begging the question. No, we don’t automatically trust “journalists,” or what they present to us. We are to make up our own minds based on the picture presented to us, in its entirety.
Who sources are, whether they are nursing grudges, have partisan interests in the outcomes of the election, or have backgrounds making them unreliable, are important factors for the public to consider. Transparency is even more important for The Atlantic, considering its owner, Laurene Powell Jobs, is a mega-donor to Joe Biden having given at least $500,000 to the candidate in this cycle alone.
Geoffrey Ingersoll, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, made several important observations on Twitter: “Here’s the FOIA docs. Again, not saying Goldberg or his sources are lying. But he started off by flatly asserting it wasn’t ‘true’ the flight was cancelled due to rain. It is, in fact, true … [in my opinion], starting off a massively explosive story by omitting evidence to the contrary and then getting a publicly known fact totally wrong … not the best first step if you want to be believed. For the EIC of the Atlantic, hard for me to believe these mistakes lacked forethought.”
Those lighting a match to Mr. Goldberg’s screed include former National Security Adviser John Bolton, a man not known for his love of the president. He told Martha MacCallum on Fox News: “According to what that article said, the president made disparaging remarks about soldiers and people buried in the cemetery in connection with the decision for him not to go to the ceremony that was planned that afternoon, and that was simply false … I don’t know who told the author that, but that was false.”
With almost everyone who was in the room, ranging from Ambassador Bolton, to a close aide to Gen. John Kelly denying that it occurred and also denying that Gen. Kelly was a source of the story, to former press secretary Sarah Sanders, the U.S. ambassador to France, as well as multiple other aides to the president, it would be important to the public to know who made the accusation. After all, someone lied — either those denying on the record or those accusing anonymously. So who is it?
Another question the public must ask when confronting such partisan slop as The Atlantic smear: Why are other reporters and political operatives willing to believe anonymous sources above people who were personally present and in the room during the trip itself? If the answer is those denying the story are beholden to the president and have an interest in denying (with the notable and narrative-busting denial of Mr. Bolton), wouldn’t that apply to people with the alternative bias?
Ultimately, The Atlantic magazine hoax does reveal something important about Mr. Trump: His deranged opponents needed to fabricate a story in order to attack him on his record with the military and veterans, revealing even they recognize his unparalleled success. Without lies, they have nothing.
• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.