Obama Joins Media in Blaming ‘Fake News’ for Trump Win

On the heels of network coverage hyping liberal fears that fake news stories shared on Facebook and across social media fueled Donald Trump’s election victory, on Friday, NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning touted President Obama pushing the issue during a Thursday press conference overseas.

On Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie made sure to credit her network for teeing up Obama’s remarks: “The President is weighing in on a story we've been following this week – fake news that popped up on social media during the election season and may have influenced some voters.”  

In the report that followed, correspondent Miguel Almaguer declared: “With the President speaking out, one man behind the fake headlines is gloating to The Washington Post, saying he's duped Americans for years. His hoax stories, he claims, having a significant impact on the election.”

The reporter fretted: “A Buzzfeed analysis found that fake election news generated more buzz on Facebook than stories from 19 mainstream news outlets combined.” He noted: “Fake news is such big news, President Obama weighed in Thursday.” A soundbite played of Obama warning: “There's so much active misinformation, and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television.”

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Almaguer revealed that one of the biggest perpetrators in the fake news business was actually an anti-Trump activist:

One of the most prolific writers of fake news is 38-year-old Paul Horner, who thinks his stories may have helped Donald Trump get elected, telling The Washington Post, “Nobody fact-checks anything anymore – I mean, that's how Trump got elected”....And while Horner says he hates Trump and thought he was messing with the campaign, he also says with every click his fabricated stories made him money. Horner claims about $10,000 a month.

Washington Post reporter Caitlin Dewey worried: “The real problem is with this fake news. And what Paul has been so successful in exploiting is this idea of confirmation bias. You know, that people want to read and share news that conforms with beliefs that they already have.”

On CBS This Morning, the New Yorker’s David Remnick described Obama’s concern over the subject throughout the presidential race:

I think we’ve seen from this campaign that we have a whole new media universe, fake news....Obama, when I was with him on the campaign, he and his political director were obsessed about an article that came out in Buzzfeed about a town in Macedonia, a former part of Yugoslavia, in one town where they were producing with just a small group of guys, producing over a hundred pro-Trump websites that were filled with fake stories. Completely fake.

Co-host Charlie Rose wondered: “So he’s concerned about a media where you can't tell fact from fiction?” An exasperated Remnick replied: “You can't penetrate it. If you create a media universe for yourself where you're inhaling fake news, you're not going anywhere near the New Yorker, The New York Times, or CBS morning news.”

Perhaps if journalists were more concerned with policing their own liberal bias, the public would be less inclined to seek out alternative news sources. That question was never broached in any of the coverage on either morning show.

Here is a full transcript of the November 18 report on Today:

7:13 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The President is weighing in on a story we've been following this week – fake news that popped up on social media during the election season and may have influenced some voters. NBC’s national correspondent Miguel Almaguer has more on that. Miguel, good morning.

MIGUEL ALMAGUER: Savannah, good morning. With the President speaking out, one man behind the fake headlines is gloating to The Washington Post, saying he's duped Americans for years. His hoax stories, he claims, having a significant impact on the election.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Facebook, Fake News and the President; Obama: Fake Stories Can Hurt Democracy]

For millions of Americans, Facebook is much more than a powerful social platform, it’s where they get their news. The problem is fake news is shared more than ever. A Buzzfeed analysis found that fake election news generated more buzz on Facebook than stories from 19 mainstream news outlets combined. Fake news is such big news, President Obama weighed in Thursday.

BARACK OBAMA: There's so much active misinformation, and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television.

ALMAGUER: One of the most prolific writers of fake news is 38-year-old Paul Horner, who thinks his stories may have helped Donald Trump get elected, telling The Washington Post, “Nobody fact-checks anything anymore – I mean, that's how Trump got elected.”

CAITLIN DEWEY [WASHINGTON POST]: He started with this story that Donald Trump announced he was going to require Muslims to wear badges. And he thought, you know, surely no one will think this story is true, it’s absurd, but in fact, people shared it. So then he said, you know, well, I’m going to go one step further.

ALMAGUER: And while Horner says he hates Trump and thought he was messing with the campaign, he also says with every click his fabricated stories made him money. Horner claims about $10,000 a month. But his lucrative career may slowing down after Facebook and Google announced they’ll begin to prohibit ad sales from sites pushing out fake news.

DEWEY: The real problem is with this fake news. And what Paul has been so successful in exploiting is this idea of confirmation bias. You know, that people want to read and share news that conforms with beliefs that they already have.

ALMAGUER: So the next time you're browsing online, the best advice may be the oldest – don't believe everything you read.  

There are a few ways to tell if you're reading a fake news story. You should read beyond the headline, experts say you should also check the URL for spelling errors or too many extra letters, and you should always Google a story to see if there are more news outlets reporting the same facts. Savannah?

GUTHRIE: Miguel Almaguer, thank you.

Tell the Truth 2016 NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Video Fake News Savannah Guthrie Miguel Almaguer David Remnick Barack Obama Donald Trump

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