Washington Post slammed for fabricating quotes to frame former President Donald Trump
DUBAI: The Washington Post has admitted it misquoted former US President Donald Trump in a misleading story surrounding alleged voter fraud in the state of Georgia.
In the article that was later cited by Democrats in their impeachment documents against the then president, Trump was incorrectly quoted as having told the chief investigator of the Georgia secretary of state’s office to “find the fraud” in the state’s presidential election and she would become a “national hero.”
The original headline read “‘Find the fraud’: Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction.”
But The Washington Post has now admitted that it carried quotes that were “misattributed to Trump,” and has changed the headline to the online version of the story with a retraction.
The headline now reads: “Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction.”
And the previously sensational report misquoting Trump has now been toned down, with the former president reported as having “urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to identify wrongdoing in the state’s vote.”
The article, originally published on Jan. 9, was based on information from an anonymous source that was briefed on the December phone call and spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity – the new version of the story still fails to name that source.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal obtained a recording of the phone call from Trump to the investigator.
In it, Trump did ask the investigator to search for voter fraud, adding that she would be “praised.”
But the Post conceded that their report was inaccurate – the quotes were wrong and were not a true reflection of what Trump had said.
Now the US national newspaper has run a correction:
“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, Georgia, 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 was not alone in this mistake. The story was picked up by other news organizations, including CNN and NBC News, which relied on the Post for providing accurate information.
Mark Hemingway at the Federalist, an American conservative online magazine and podcast, said Trump’s alleged pressuring of Georgia officials went on to be cited by democrats in the US House of Representatives during the impeachment articles against Trump.
“A few weeks later, house democrats would cite the article and its fabricated quotes on page 10 of their impeachment brief, as well as highlight the article and its fake quotes in oral arguments during the televised impeachment trial,” Hemingway said.
He went onto say that had the story been accurately reported it would still have been impactful.
“Even accurately reported, the story may have been newsworthy or unflattering to Trump, but there’s a huge difference in criminal intent between a frustrated and addled Trump asking an investigator to look into fraud he genuinely believes is real versus pressuring the investigator to invent it,” Hemmingway said.
And he cited the female investigator on the phone call as having told local news “she did not perceive any pressure from the president’s call.”
Hemmingway slammed the retraction as being too little, too late: “A correction two months after the fact, when the story has already played a significant role in shaping perceptions of political events, seems wholly inadequate.”
Trump has since responded to the correction by calling the Post’s original reporting a “media travesty” but thanked the publication for correcting it.
Joe Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes and went on to beat Trump in the US presidential election.