2017 was a banner year for fake news. Although left-wing activists originally applied the term to right-leaning news outlets in the days after the 2016 presidential election to explain away President Trump’s unexpected victory, conservatives quickly re-appropriated it to refer to the mainstream media, which have long prioritized Democrat puffery over reporting reality. Enjoy a trip down memory lane . . .
On February 14, Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo reported in The New York Times, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” The Gray Lady was subsequently humiliated when former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the story, saying, “In the main, it was not true.”
On June 6, CNN falsely reported that then-FBI director James Comey refuted President Trump’s claim of having been told multiple times that he was not under FBI investigation. The correction reads, “The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.”
In non-Russia-related fake news, The New York Times falsely stated in an editorial on June 14 about the shooting of Steve Scalise that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Democrat congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As the Times was later forced to admit, “In fact, no such link existed.”
On June 22, CNN falsely reported that then-Trump transition team official Anthony Scaramucci met with a Russian state bank four days before the inauguration. The story, based on — you guessed it — anonymous sources, was not just corrected but retracted. CNN wrote in an editor’s note, “That story did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted. Links to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci.” The debacle resulted in the firing of three CNN “journalists.”
On June 25, Maggie Haberman, whom the Clinton campaign lauded as a “friendly journalist” who would frequently “tee up stories” for them, reported in The New York Times that all 17 American intelligence agencies agreed that Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during the 2016 presidential election. The Associated Press ran similar claims on April 6, June 2, June 26, and June 29. Democrat rapid-response platform Politifact deemed Hillary Clinton’s claim of agreement among all 17 intelligence agencies “completely true.” In reality, fewer than one-quarter of federal intelligence agencies made that assessment: the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and the office of the director of national intelligence. Both the Times and AP were forced to issue corrections.
On December 1, ABC News reported that during the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump ordered Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials in violation of the Logan Act. That story, based on anonymous sources, turned out to be entirely false. ABC News later “clarified” the report and suspended “journalist” Brian Ross.
On December 8, CNN falsely reported that members of the Trump campaign received an email offering a decryption key and website address for hacked Wikileaks documents on September 4. In reality, the email arrived ten days later after all of the information contained therein was already publicly available. Further, the email was never responded to, and there is no evidence that it was ever even opened.
On November 22, Gabriel Sherman reported in New York Magazine that “a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers” demanded a recount in three states because of “persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked.” Writers from Politico, Reuters, MSNBC, and The New York Times all shared the story. But as Nate Silver pointed out the next next, “Anyone making allegations of a possible massive electoral hack should provide proof, and we can’t find any.” Further, the New York Magazine piece had even misrepresented the computer scientists’ argument.
On December 1, Lorraine Woellert falsely claimed in Politico that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had once overseen a company that “foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman after a 27-cent payment error.” The story, which was shared by writers from The New York Times, NBC News, Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, New York Post, and the Associated Press, had just one problem: it was entirely false. The woman was never foreclosed on, she never lost her home, and it wasn’t even Mnuchin’s bank that brought the suit.
A couple honorable mentions:
On January 20, CNN falsely claimed that Nancy Sinatra was “not happy” with President Trump’s selecting her father’s classic “My Way” for the inaugural dance. Sinatra never said anything of the kind, and CNN later “updated” the article. Also on January 20, Time Magazine reported that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the White House. The story was fabricated after the reporter merely “looked for it and had not seen it.” He quickly apologized, but the false story had already made headlines around the world.
On February 2, the Associated Press tweeted, “BREAKING: House votes to roll back Obama rule on background checks for gun ownership.” In reality, the vote pertained only to a narrow rule and garnered support from virtually the entire political spectrum, including the NRA, the GOP, the ACLU, and countless disability advocacy groups.
Is it any wonder 65% of Americans no longer trust the mainstream media?