The “correction” was remarkable:
“Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source,” The Post wrote on Monday.
“Trump did not tell the investigator to ‘find the fraud’ or say she would be ‘a national hero’ if she did so,’” the correction continued. “Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find ‘dishonesty’ there. He also told her that she had ‘the most important job in the country right now.’ A story about the recording can be found here. The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.”
The Post — whose motto is “Democracy Dies In Darkness” — used the words “misquoted” and “misattributed.” But former President Donald Trump wasn’t “misquoted” and his supposed quote wasn’t “misattributed” — he never said what The Post claimed he said. The claims were “false” — a word The Post should have used to describe its reporting.
In a Jan. 9 story, The Post claimed that Mr. Trump — during a Dec. 23 phone call — urged Frances Watson, the chief investigator of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, to “find the fraud,” telling her she would be a “national hero.” The story cited a single source allegedly familiar with the call.
A slew of mainstream media outlets followed suit — either talking to the same source or simply relying on the supposed veracity of The Post piece. “CNN also reported on the call citing an unnamed source and waited until Monday afternoon to correct its story, after initially stating Trump said ‘national hero’ and ‘find the fraud’ in its opening paragraph,” Fox News reported. “Many outlets picked up the story, including Vox, ABC News, and NBC News.”
But last Thursday, The Wall Street Journal ran a story that included audio of the six-minute call between Mr. Trump and Ms. Watson. He never said “find the fraud” or made the “national hero” promise.
That means The Post and other MSM outlets reported false information based on a single source.
Mr. Trump immediately spanked the D.C. paper. “The Washington Post just issued a correction as to the contents of the incorrectly reported phone call I had with respect to voter fraud in the Great State of Georgia,” he said in a statement.
“While I appreciate the Washington Post’s correction, which immediately makes the Georgia Witch Hunt a non-story, the original story was a Hoax, right from the very beginning. I would further appreciate a strong investigation into Fulton County, Georgia, and the Stacey Abrams political machine which, I believe, would totally change the course of the presidential election in Georgia,” he said.
Mr. Trump continued: “You will notice that establishment media errors, omissions, mistakes, and outright lies always slant one way — against me and against Republicans. Meanwhile, stories that hurt Democrats or undermine their narratives are buried, ignored, or delayed until they can do the least harm — for example, after an election is over.
“Look no further than the negative coverage of the vaccine that preceded the election and the overdue celebration of the vaccine once the election had concluded. A strong democracy requires a fair and honest press. This latest media travesty underscores that legacy media outlets should be regarded as political entities — not journalistic enterprises,” he said.
While Mr. Trump thanked The Post for the correction, what the once-great paper did completely destroyed what little credibility it still has. The paper took a single source and leveled hugely serious charges against the president — no proof, no corroboration, just a claim that Mr. Trump had uttered the words. The story hung out there for months, completely false.
The serious error calls into question some other bizarre claims the paper has made, almost always with unnamed sources (or, apparently, a single source — which has long been a journalistic no-no).
In an “analysis” story from October 2019, a Post writer said, “Trump had, at some point, suggested that an effective barrier on the border might include a moat stocked with alligators and snakes.” The next day, The Post reported that “Trump told aides last year he wanted U.S. forces with bayonets to block people from crossing into the United States across the Mexico border.” No named sources, of course, just “current and former administration officials involved in those discussions,” said the articles.
One journalist succinctly summed up the grim status of The Post, now owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.
“This kind of mistake is beyond serious,” Mark Hemingway, senior writer at Real Clear Investigations, wrote on Twitter. “There’s zero accountability in major corporate media anymore, yet they continually insist they’re the ones holding the line on the truth. And always remember what should scare you about the media is what doesn’t get exposed.
“Also note headline on the Post’s follow-up story is a sort of maliciously anodyne ‘Recording reveals details of Trump call to Georgia’s chief elections investigator,’” Hemingway wrote. “It’s not ‘Trump’s Remarks Grossly Misrepresented Across Media, Because We Credulously Fall For Political Ops.’”
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.