The Washington Post received a flood of criticism after correcting a story in which the outlet “misquoted” former President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the Georgia Secretary of State’s top investigator.
The Post attributed fraudulent quotes to Trump based off a single anonymous source familiar with the Dec. 23 phone call. The newspaper published the fake quotes in a January article playing up the president’s alleged efforts to interfere in Georgia’s presidential election.
The newspaper corrected its story on Thursday and issued a lengthy editor’s note to the top of the article after The Wall Street Journal published audio of the phone call last week. The Post said it “misattributed” quotes of Trump ordering the investigator to “find the fraud” and claiming the investigator would be a “national hero.”
“This kind of mistake is beyond serious. 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,” RealClearInvestigations senior writer Mark Hemingway said. “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.’ It’s not ‘Trump’s Remarks Grossly Misrepresented Across Media, Because We Credulously Fall For Political Ops.’”
CNN conservative commentator Mary Katherine Ham suggested that the Post’s mistake should cost someone his job.
“So, they made up quotes. What in the actual F,” Ham tweeted. “The header for this story could be a little clearer, like ‘Our Bad, We Made Fake News That Led the National News For Weeks And This Audio Proves It,’” she added with a link to the Post’s story.
“For those in my timeline asking me if it really matters bc Trump bad anyway, YES, IT REALLY MATTERS! Quotes being correct matters A LOT. Don’t you see that’s the issue? If a reporter is so dead sure, that ‘Trump bad anyway,’ he is less inclined to question or vet his own stories.” Ham continued. “And don’t give me the ‘corrections are an example of the system working’ stuff. Sometimes they are! Here, they’re coming in 3 mos later when they were outed by a recording & the correction & new story are designed to downplay as much as possible, not blare as loudly as original.”
National Review senior writer David Harsanyi quipped, “I’m sure it was just an accident.”
“There is absolutely no way that 20 years ago a newspaper would have gone with a story about a presidential call with so little corroboration. This is just one of dozens of major stories that big outlets got completely wrong. And it’s no mistake that all of them skew in 1 direction,” he added. “Trump gave them license to act like a bunch of unprofessional hysterical activists. And no one will pay a price because they provide their subscribers with exactly the content they want.”
The Post’s correction posted to the top of its Jan. 9 story says:
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. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. 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.