News and Commentary

Washington Post Writers Claim Trump Called Military Leaders ‘Dopes And Babies’
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Long on narrative and short on sourcing, Washington Post writers Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker published an adapted excerpt from their new upcoming book “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America.”

In the article published Friday, the writers describe at length a meeting between President Donald Trump, some advisors, and military leaders. The conversation is alleged to have taken place in a secure room called “the Tank” back when Gen. Jim Mattis was still Secretary of Defense, Rex Tillerson was still the Secretary of State, and Steve Bannon was still a White House adviser.

The Post writers paint a narrative as if they had audio or video recordings of the meeting or personally witnessed the conversation. It’s a typical narrative topic, but in this case – and with the outlet’s past bias against Trump – such writing serves only to conceal the fact that the sourcing for the conversation is rather thin. At one point during the conversation, Trump is alleged to have told the military leaders: “I wouldn’t go to war with you people. You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

Who claims Trump said this? The Post authors don’t let us know. The only kind of sourcing we get is Tillerson allegedly later told “close aides” that he felt Mattis said nothing during the discussion to defense himself because, as a Marine, he would not talk back to the commander in chief. Other sources include “one attendee,” “another,” and “a third attendee.” There were also “Others at the table,” apparently. Tillerson also apparently “told others” there was a woman in the room who was crying. There’s also a statement from “one senior official.” Eventually, the writers refer to one attendee as a “victim” of the meeting.

The Amazon description for the book suggests Leonnig and Rucker had “deep and unmatched sources throughout Washington, D.C.” who told them about Trump’s “rages and frenzies but also moments of courage and perseverance.” They also apparently spoke to “some of the most senior members of the Trump administration and other firsthand witnesses.”

We have seen from the Post’s past reporting, as well as The New York Times’ and other left-leaning outlets, that anonymous sources are constantly used to paint a particular narrative. These anonymous sources are allowed to control the news cycle without have to prove how they could possibly know what had transpired. Many times, as with this article, people who were told about the meeting after the fact are used to craft the narrative.

Let’s say Tillerson, Bannon, Mattis, and the other big-name people who were in the room spoke to the Post. They’re all former officials who have a bone to pick with the president, but in the Trump era of “journalism,” leaving the Trump administration and speaking ill of the media’s most hated president instantly provides an impenetrable shield of credibility.

This is not to say Trump absolutely did not say what the Post claims, but given the media’s willingness to accept bad faith, anonymous sources to paint their preferred portrait of the Trump administration, it’s hard to believe anything they publish.

For good measure, that Amazon description flat-out states their bias, claiming that despite Trump’s claims to help the country, we have only suffered with him as president and our nation has plunged into “chaos.” This conveniently ignores that wages are rising and the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest in decades and that Americans who don’t already hate Republicans are actually doing much better than they were under the Obama administration.

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