Fake ‘fake news’ versus real fake news

June 10, 2017 08:26 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 05:01 pm IST

Spreading ‘fake news’ is something that he has been accused of all along, but President Donald Trump is proving that two can play at that game. It was he who propagated the textbook example of fake news, that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., but over the last five months, he has turned the table on his critics with considerable success. “Fake news,” he routinely responds to any news that questions or exposes his administration. “Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH,” he said this week after outlets roasted him for disparaging the Mayor of London following the terror attack in the city.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused reporters of spreading “fake news”, leading to a furious exchange between them last week. “Can you give an example of fake news,” he was challenged. “Sure,” replied Spicer. “…the President was having a great discussion at the G-7 and somebody from the BBC and ultimately an incoming reporter for the New York Times , tweeted that the President was being rude by disrespecting the Italian Prime Minister when, in fact, you all... watch the President with that one earpiece.” The context: The BBC’s James Landale, who was covering Mr. Trump’s Europe tour, could not spot the small headphone that the President was wearing and tweeted: “A short clip that sums up this G-7 summit: look who has chosen not to hear a translation of his Italian host’s speech.”

The mainstream media’s enthusiasm to hold Donald Trump accountable has led to multiple missteps, fulfilling the President’s characterisation of them as fake news

Several other journalists retweeted it. After Mr. Spicer countered him on Twitter, Mr. Landale corrected himself on Twitter. Reporters told Mr. Spicer they might make mistake and demanded more examples. “I didn’t come here with a list of things!” Mr. Spicer said, before abruptly ending the briefing. Critics are accusing the President of pushing fake news. “The $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia is fake news,” said the title of an article written by Brookings scholar Bruce Riedel on the much hyped deal that Mr. Trump inked during his visit to Riyadh.

Russian propaganda

American media began reporting about fake news, allegedly spread by Russian operatives, during last year’s election campaign. Many reports floating around cyberspace about Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton — about her health, links with corporations and numerous other conspiracy theories — were fake news pushed by Russian agents, the mainstream media reported.

But the mainstream media’s enthusiasm to hold Mr. Trump accountable has led to multiple missteps, fulfilling the President’s characterisation of them as fake news. For instance, when four State Department officials resigned in January — a routine course when a new administration takes charge — the Washington Post ran a story with the headline “The State Department’s entire senior management team resigned”, which was “part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers”. The story went viral but turned out to be based on a flippant premise and shaky facts.

Early last month, CNN refused to carry a TV ad issued by the Trump campaign that characterised all mainstream channels as ‘fake news’. “The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network said, while the President’s campaign said it was censorship. “President Trump’s loyal supporters know the truth: the mainstream media mislead, misguide, deceive, and distract,” said Michael Glassner, executive director of the campaign committee. Therein lies Mr. Trump’s success. For his team, there is fake fake news and real fake news.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.