It’s written by The Associated Press, the storied newswire, and it carries the label “fact check.” Its opening line is rather declarative: “President Donald Trump can’t be counted on to give accurate information to Americans when violent acts are unfolding abroad.”
The story then proceeded to substantiate that claim: A Saturday tweet from Trump — which came in the aftermath of the London attacks that killed at least seven people — contradicted a pronouncement by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. Another mangled the statements of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who’d told his people there’s “no need to be alarmed” about stepped-up police presence. Trump failed to include such context: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”
Last week, Trump cited a “terrorist” attack in Manila, though authorities said the motive was robbery.
To accomplish such fact-checking, the AP didn’t much exert itself. It merely compared highly public statements by the president against readily available facts. The commander in chief cannot be bothered to do likewise before he takes to Twitter or to the lectern.
The AP may take considerable abuse for the lead of this fact-check, but it’s not a matter of opinion that the president cannot be counted on to provide accurate information in the clutch; it’s a matter of deduction, as the fact-check itself explains.
Last month, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy issued a study on the tone of coverage of Trump. A preponderance of negativity surrounded stories on the president and his policies, the study found. Conservative critics, including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, seized on the study to prove that the media is tilted against Trump.
“Exactly how liberal and how biased is the press?” said Carlson on his program. “For the answer to that, we have to go to social science. And now for the first time in a while, we actually have some, some real data. A new study from researchers at Harvard University looked at 10 major news outlets and found the overwhelming majority of the new administration’s first 100 days was hostile.”
Indeed, the Shorenstein Center found a lopsided situation. Yet there’s an explanation for these disparities, one that doesn’t involve bias or alleged anti-Trump agendas. As the Shorenstein Center methodology states, negative stories not only include those in which Trump is directly criticized. “Negative stories also consist of stories where an event, trend, or development reflects unfavorably on the actor,” reads the methodology of the report.
Bogus tweets and false statements reflect unfavorably on this particular actor, as they have been now for months and months. Pointing that out isn’t bias; it’s journalism.
Contact Mr. Wemple at firstname.lastname@example.org.