On Saturday, Frank Miele, the managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana, recounted what he called an "unexpected chance to put my finger in the dike holding back the flood of fake news caused by those afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome."
Miele acted on an "unfounded" story about one of President Donald Trump's tweets by the Associated Press's Darlene Superville, who "either misunderstood Trump’s tweet" about FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe or "intentionally lied about it."
For reasons described later in this post, Superville and the AP are indisputably capable of either offense.
A FINGER IN THE DIKE HOLDING BACK THE FAKE NEWS
... one story on the (AP) news digest caught my attention right away: “President Donald Trump reacts to reports about the retirement of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe by retweeting falsehoods about McCabe’s wife.”
... When I read AP reporter Darlene Superville’s story, it was immediately obvious that she had either misunderstood Trump’s tweet or intentionally lied about it.
Here is the related Trump tweet:
Back to Miele:
(Superville wrote that) “... Trump’s tweet was incorrect. McCabe’s wife, Jill, did not get $700,000 in donations from Clinton for a Virginia state Senate race in 2015. The money came from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee and the Virginia Democratic Party ... McAuliffe is a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.”
It was immediately apparent to me that the only falsehood in the story was the one written by Superville when she claimed “Trump’s tweet was incorrect.”
President Trump never said that Hillary Clinton had given $700,000 in donations to Jill McCabe’s campaign. He said that “Clinton Puppets” had done so, and anyone who has followed the career of Terry McAuliffe knows that puppet is the most polite description possible to describe his relationship with the Clintons. Most of the other accurate words cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
... Thus a story about anti-Trump bias in the FBI had uncovered anti-Trump bias at the Associated Press. Oh the irony!
Miele, instead of correcting the AP story solely at his own paper, decided to try to get a network-wide correction. As readers might expect, it wasn't easy.
He first attempted to explain what was blatantly obvious to "the editor on duty in the so-called 'nerve center' of the Associated Press" — three times, without success — before he was given a chance to talk to "an editor in Washington" whom he thought understood his point.
But here's what resulted after AP-Washington first attempted a revision:
... when I looked at the new version, it turned out they had just changed the wording to “repeating” falsehoods.
Again, I explained that the author of the story had invented the falsehood ...
... the AP editor had an “a-ha” moment when he finally realized why the word “falsehood” was inappropriate.
... The next lead on “Trump-FBI” didn’t show up on the wire for more than an hour. This time it said:
“President Donald Trump again questioned the impartiality of the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who is planning to retire from the bureau in the months ahead after being buffeted by attacks over alleged anti-Trump bias in the agency.”
Wow! Real news! It was a small step, but an important one.
Though Miele's finger in the dike analogy has unfortunate validity, his efforts have had a wider impact than he believes.
Due to the passage of time, it's not possible to replicate his Google searches, but I can say with certainty that Google inexplicably inflates its number of results in web searches, and has for years. For example, a Monday evening Google web search on Superville's original headline ("Trump tweets falsehoods about wife of retiring FBI Deputy Director McCabe," in quotes), which supposedly returned 2,110 results, really only had 49 listings. There's no good reason to believe there are more.
More to the point, the AP automatically pushes out story revisions to most of its subscribers' sites. How quickly these revisions get posted online is difficult to determine; some appear to be virtually instant, others not so much. The only subscribing website I could locate in a search on the AP item's original title which is still carrying the original false version of Superville's story was the Los Angeles Times.
That said, Superville's false story was out there for about a day before it was corrected, and was more than likely seen by more readers than the corrected version.
The need for more vigilance by local editors like Miele over stories transmitted by AP should be obvious by now.
Start with Superville herself. A review of posts at NewsBusters addressing her reporting indicates that she might as well have been Barack Obama's designated groupie during his administration, and that she has been prone to significant factual errors.
In August 2016, she worried about Dear Leader losing his "vacation glow." Six months earlier, she labeled those who were unimpressed after almost seven years of the Obama economy's worst post-recession recovery since World War II "deniers." In April 2010, she claimed that Chrysler and General Motors, which had fewer than 200,000 combined employees at the time of their 2009 federal government-managed bankruptcies, had lost 400,000 employees during the recession.
On July 17, 2015, in what appeared to be a coordinated strategy, Superville asked Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest perfunctory questions about the previous day's terrorist massacre of five U.S. servicemen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She then steered the conversation from that uncomfortable topic to give Earnest a chance to — even after over two years, it's hard to believe this happened — "flesh out the father-daughter weekend" the President had planned. Superville was able to create this diversion from bad news because, during the Obama era, AP was granted the privilege of asking the first questions at White House press briefings. With obsequious reporters like Superville, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess why the wire service was granted that perk. (Shortly after Trump's inauguration, the AP had a childish temper tantrum when the incoming Trump administration revoked its opening-question privilege.)
The AP's animus towards Trump, which extended far back into Trump's presidential campaign, became especially hostile during his post-victory transition period. It then went into overdrive after Trump's inauguration, and really has never let up. The wire service's "fact checks" since then have almost exclusively been about Trump. At APnews.com, statements and claims by Trump made up all but two of the 40 AP-originated fact checks returned in a Monday evening site search on "fact check"; the other two were about other Republicans (10 other listings originating from other publications rounded out the roster of 50).
There isn't a person on earth who believes that a supposedly objective news service is utterly unable to find any Democrats or leftists who lie, or who even stretch the truth.
Meanwhile, AP management goes on left-friendly TV and says that consumers are "seeking out good journalism," and its News Media Guild, which is in contract talks, claims that "reporters (and) editors should be justly compensated for producing it."
When it comes to consistently producing "good journalism," each group has as much credibility as Darlene Superville's original McCabe story.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.