Commander-in-chief hammers Yahoo: On Tuesday, right there in the White House, Yahoo's Hunter Walker made a mistake.
President Trump was taking questions with Governor DeSantis. Dr. Birx was also present. The mistake went down like this:
WALKER (4/28/20): Mr. President, overall, South Korea has done five times more tests than the U.S. per capita. Why is that?With that, Birx launched one of her long, rambling, way-off-the-point recitations. She didn't speak to the factual claim which President Trump had challenged.
TRUMP: I don’t think that’s true.
WALKER: That is true. You said this morning that—
TRUMP: I don’t—I don’t think it’s true.
WALKER: The White House said the U.S. passes South Korea on virus testing.
TRUMP: I don’t think it’s true. Who are you with?
WALKER: Yahoo News. And it’s not true per capita.
TRUMP (to Dr. Birx): Do you want to respond to that? Do you—if you have the numbers.
Later, though, Birx had somehow acquired the numbers. At that point, the hammer came down:
BIRX: So, to our Yahoo gentleman, I just want to make it clear that South Korea’s testing was 11 per—per 100,000, and we’re at 17 per 100,000. So—"Right," the president said, as if he actually knew. Clearly, though, no one hates a factual error more than Donald J. Trump!
TRUMP: Right! Are you going to apologize, Yahoo? That’s why you’re Yahoo and nobody knows who the hell you are.
WALKER: If that’s correct— Based on the numbers I’ve seen, that’s not—
TRUMP: That’s why nobody knows who you are, including me. [To different journalist] Go ahead.
BIRX: Just check it again.
TRUMP: You ought to get your facts right before you make a statement like that.
As far as we know, Dr. Birx's numbers were correct. You can see similar numbers reported by Vox just one day before this fiery White House exchange.
The Yahoo gentleman made a mistake. That said, Trump himself made all kinds of wild misstatements about the extent of our testing just one day before. Here's the difference:
The Yahoo gentleman was massacred by Trump in real time for making this mistake. Luckily, this event wasn't being broadcast in prime time by all three cable channels, but that's where teamwork comes in.
Fox News and the Washington Examiner each posted reports about the Yahoo gentleman's subsequent apology for his mistake. (ABC News and The Hill also reported the troubling incident.)
Trump himself retweeted the Fox News report under this headline:
Yahoo reporter apologizes to President Trump after making false coronavirus test claim in Oval Office meetingPeople, Fake News had struck again! In this way, Trump supporters are given a certain picture of the world.
Concerning the various wild misstatements Trump had made the day before, people who found their way to PolitiFact found a "Pants on Fire" assessment of Trump's ridiculous claims. But you had to search it out.
Our point is simple:
Trump makes wild misstatements every day in the week. This was an especially egregious state of affairs when CNN and MSNBC were making a point of broadcasting his repeated wild misstatements to the nation in prime time, night after night after night.
Major news orgs took an amazingly permissive approach to the broadcast of these repetitive nightly misstatements. Even as these repetitive misstatements were being broadcast night after night, no major org created a dedicated newspaper page, or a dedicated cable program, dedicated to their collection and correction.
CNN and MSNBC aired hours of wild misstatements, night after night, for weeks. In the last few weeks, CNN began trying a bit harder to fact-check Trump's endless wild claims, but the overall imbalance of misstatement to correction was immense.
Citizens weren't invited to learn about the president's endless misstatements. The New York Times? CNN, MSNBC? Such orgs didn't much seem to care about the clownishness of this seven-nights-per-week propaganda and disinformation storm.
Let one reporter make a mistake, as the Yahoo gentleman did, and Trump supporters are told about it all up and down and around. The reporter gets yelled at in real time, after which the outraged reporting and the triumphant tweeting start.
Trump makes wild misstatements all the time; Yahoo made just one. But one team took that mistake and ran.
Across the spectrum, the boys and girls of the upper-end press have mainly just sat there and stared. It's just as we have ytold you for years:
Respect for accurate information plays an amazingly minor role in upper-end journalistic culture. What follows is an anthropological point:
Truth to tell, they just don't seem to care.