Washington Post Exposed for Fraudulent Story on Trump Call to Georgia

March 15th, 2021 9:28 PM

The Washington Post published a rather stunning correction on Thursday, on an old January 9 story by reporter Amy Gardner on Donald Trump's phone call to Frances Watson, the chief investigator for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger.

This correction did not appear in Friday's print edition of the Post...or Saturday's, or Sunday's. You would have had to go back to this January 9 article's link to find it. 

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. [Anonymous sources are not always reliable!]

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.

On Twitter, Mark Hemingway criticized this approach better than I could: 

This newspaper insists they are the Truth against the "Big Lie" of election fraud. But they were so convinced Trump's resistance to the election results was evil, they were snookered by a source who told them just what they wanted to believe. 

Hemingway also tweeted: 

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."

This was the point underlined by Washington Examiner media reporter Becket Adams, who made a list of the spread of this anonymously sourced misinformation:

NBC News reported it “confirmed The Post’s characterization of the Dec. 23 call through a source familiar with the conversation.”

USA Today claimed a “Georgia official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters confirmed the details of the call.”

ABC News reported: "President Donald Trump phoned a chief investigator in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office asking the official to 'find the fraud' and telling this person they would be a 'national hero' for it, an individual familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News."

PBS NewsHour and CNN likewise appeared to claim they independently “confirmed” the story through their own anonymous sources.

Adams surmised the most likely scenario on this fraudulent story is that all these outlets talked to the same person or group. "It’s either that, or a bunch of people managed somehow to be wrong about a very specific claim, which is highly unlikely."

P.S.: See Nick Fondacaro's update showing the networks aren't correcting their stories on this chain. Journalists can decry President Trump refusing to accept certified election results, but it's not good journalism to report fraudulent claims against politicians you hate.