Behind the Scenes With an Unidentified Source

This is a case study in the genesis and propagation of fake news. It supports the view that we should never believe anything that comes from the New York Times, if it is attributed to an unidentified source. Reporters cannot be trusted.

The subject is President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un. Mollie Hemingway–an increasingly important commentator–has the story at The Federalist. It starts with a media meme, the claim that Trump was so desperate to get a “win” that he likely would make a bad deal. (They misspelled “Obama.”)

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura wrote that “critics fear that a president determined to declare victory where his predecessors failed will allow his desire for a legacy-making deal to override the substance of the negotiations.” On the same day, the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman mocked Trump’s desire for a win, which he said was turning Trump into a fool who was getting played.

Then Trump suddenly canceled the June 12 summit, while also saying that he was still willing to talk with the North Koreans, and a meeting might still take place on the 12th if the North Koreans cooperate.

This led to a new liberal press theme: Trump is making absurd claims and is at odds with his aides. Mark Landler and David Sanger of The New York Times wrote an article, the theme of which was that there are deep divisions between Trump and his staff. The June 12 meeting was Exhibit A:

As with so many issues involving this president, the views of his aides often have little effect on what he actually says. On Thursday, for example, a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.

On Friday, Mr. Trump said, “It could even be the 12th.”

But the Times’s claim about what “a senior White House official” said was false. The president called out the paper’s misrepresentation:

Trump was right, but the liberal media dug in:

Media types rushed to The New York Times’ defense, claiming they heard a White House official say the “impossible” line in a background briefing they were privy to. Someone leaked audio of a background briefing that they said supported The New York Times’ “impossible” characterization.

Yashar Ali, who writes for New York magazine and HuffPo, then outed the name of someone who briefed reporters on background and provided audio that he erroneously claimed supported The New York Times’ characterization.

I’ve long suspected that liberal journalists can’t read very well. It turns out they can’t hear, either. The audio recording shows that Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah didn’t say a June 12 meeting would be impossible. In fact, he didn’t say anything remotely resembling that claim:

REPORTER: Can you clarify that…the President obviously announced in the letter and at the top of the bill signing that the summit is called off. But then, later, he said it’s possible the existing summit could take place, or a summit at a later date. Is he saying that it’s possible that June 12th could still happen?

WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: That’s…

REPORTER: Or has that ship sailed, right?

WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: I think that the main point, I suppose, is that the ball is in North Korea’s court right now. And there’s really not a lot of time. We’ve lost quite a bit of time that we would need in order to, I mean, there’s been an enormous amount of preparation that’s gone on over the past few months at the White House, at State, and with other agencies and so forth. But there’s a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down to actually meet and talk and negotiate, and hopefully make a deal. And June 12 is in 10 minutes, and it’s going to be, you know. But the President has said that he has — someday, that he looks forward to meeting with Kim.

That a June 12 summit is “impossible”–the whole point of the fake New York Times report–is nowhere to be found. Nor did Raj Shah agree with the reporter’s prompt that “that ship [has] sailed.” So the original Times story was false, a classic example of fake news. The Times just made it up.

If you think the liberal press was embarrassed at having attributed a statement to the Deputy Press Secretary that he didn’t make, you are mistaken. Instead, the press doubled down by asserting the absurd proposition that President Trump denied that White House aides give briefings. You can’t make this up. Once again, the failing New York Times led the way:

You got it, Maggie! President Trump denied that Raj Shah exists! This is mind-numbingly stupid, but it is the kind of nonsense/fake news that appears in the New York Times every day. The moral of the story is that you should never believe anything in the New York Times that is attributed to an unnamed source. The Times’s characterization is likely to be false, and the falsehood will, in all probability, be driven by the paper’s far-left ideology.

UPDATE: Correction–Raj Shah only introduced National Security Council aide Matthew Pottinger, who was the purported source for the “impossible” quote.

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