Another Member of CNS' Trump Stenography Brigade
Melanie Arter is too busy dutifully transcribing what comes out of the White House press office to be concerned about things like fact-checking.
By Terry Krepel
ConWebWatch has documented that Arter published 52 articles in the first four months of 2018 focusing solely or mostly on what the Trump White House had to say about a particular issue -- and that's on top of the 36 articles in the final four months of 2017 doing the same thing.
That means Arter is on occasion reporting false or misleading information -- and, thus, misleading her readers.
Arter's Feb. 28 article about departure of Hope Hicks as the Trump White House's communications director is chock-full of press release-ese and nothing but congratulatory statements:
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is resigning to explore opportunities outside of the White House, having served in that role since September, the White House announced Wednesday.
Arter completely failed to mention the actual events that may have precipitated Hick's resignation, regardless of the cheery fluff being peddled.
As an actual news outlet reported, Hicks' resignation comes a day after she testified before the House Intelligence Committee and admitted that she sometimes tells "white lies" as part of her job.
Hicks was also involved in another very recent high-profile controversy. She is the (apparently now ex-) girlfriend of White House staffer Rob Porter, who was forced to resign after his history of spousal abuse was made public. And as a different actual news outlet reported, Hicks may have helped draft a White House statement defending Porter before the scandal fully exploded.
For instance, a March 1 article features a prime bit of regurgitation from Arter:
In an effort to illustrate the “historic obstruction of Senate Democrats,” the White House pointed to acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, who is awaiting confirmation by the Senate, as an example of how it affects the safety and security of the American people.
But Sanders -- and, thus, Arter -- omits a critical piece of information. A real news outlet reported that McAleenan had been scheduled for a confirmation hearing last July, but it was "mysteriously postponed" the night before. Why? McAleenan had been accused of having an affair with a subordinate and misappropriating funding. McAleenan was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, and his confirmation process resumed in October. That's at least three months of the total Sanders (and Arter) cited that cannot possibly be blamed on alleged Democratic obstruction.
Arter served up more dutiful (and redundant) stenography in a March 16 article:
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short complained Friday of Senate Democrats’ obstruction of President Donald Trump’s nominees, saying at this rate, it will take 11 and a half years for his nominees to be given an up-or-down vote.
But Arter wasn't moved to research Short's claims beyond repeating them, so she ignored what another real news outlet reported -- that a 2013 change in the confirmation process, in which a simple majority is now needed to confirm a nominee instead of 60 votes before, is likely responsible for the growing number of cloture votes:
Cloture motions on nominations aren’t what they used to be, however. Before the use of the “nuclear option” that changed the filibuster thresholds, the moves to limit debate required bipartisan support except during the brief periods where at least 60 senators were members of the majority caucus.
Arter used her stenography skills yet again in a May 9 article to help Sanders out of another Trump-instigated mess -- this time, his tweet that perhaps the government should "take away credentials" of journalists that write things he doesn't like. Arter regurgitated Sander's insistence that the White House believes in a free press, and then pretty much stay in stenography mode later in the article:
The press secretary said it’s the media’s responsibility to report accurate information and pointed to a New York Times report accusing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of being AWOL when he was really securing the release of the three Americans from North Korea. She also pointed to a Washington Post report, which accused first lady Melania Trump of not living in the White House.
If Arter had bothered to fact-check Sanders -- something she's loath to do -- she would have found that Sanders' claims were, shall we say, less than truthful.
The term "AWOL" appears nowhere in the New York Times article Sanders is bashing. The article accurately points out that former secretary of state Rex Tillerson was "thousands of miles away" when Trump announced his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and that current secretary of state Mike Pompeo, was "again thousands of miles away, this time on an unannounced visit to Pyongyang" when Trump announced "what could be the most significant diplomatic announcement of his presidency that he would exit the Iran nuclear agreement." The Times also reported that such absences "left perplexed European diplomats privately complaining that they were having trouble getting answers from Washington, and created an uncertainty about what was next that spanned the Atlantic Ocean." While it was later revealed that Pompeo was trying to secure the release of three Americans imprisoned in North Korea, that was not a done deal at the time the article first appeared.
Meanwhile, Sanders got the Post article she attacked completely wrong. It never claimed that Melania Trump doesn't live in the White House; toward the end of the lengthy article -- which focuses on her daily routine and her unusual distance from her husband as a presidential spouse -- it notes that Melania not living in the White House has been a "persistent rumor," then immediately quotes Melania's spokeswoman and the White House social secretary denying it.
Not questioning anything Sanders says, even when it's misleading or even false, is a big part of Arter helping her do cleanup.
Stenography for Trump
Since Arter is a loyal White House stenographer, it makes sense that she would also give Trump's words a pass, no matter how false and disingenuous they are.
Arter failed to mention that time when Trump did, in fact, degrade a precious human life by mocking a disabled reporter. During the 2016 campaign speech, Trump mocked the movements of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski -- who has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits the functioning of his joints -- over claims that Kovaleski purportedly altered a story claiming that Muslims in New Jersey allegedly celebrated the fall of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.
That would seem to undercut the sincerity of Trump's words, but Arter didn't think that was an important fact to relate to her readers.
Arter wrote in a March 29 article:
President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at online retail giant Amazon, complaining that they are putting thousands of retailers out of business and pay “little or no” state and local taxes.
Arter didn't tell her readers that Trump's tweet is factually wrong. the U.S. Postal Service does lose money -- but not because of Amazon, since the USPS is required by law to at least break even on its parcel delivery operations. Amazon also collects sales taxes in all 46 states that have one, even though it's not legally required to do so.
Arter was in stenography mode again for another March 29 article:
During a speech in Richfield, Ohio, President Donald Trump said his administration has delivered on its promises, created 3 million jobs and eliminated job-killing regulations.
Arter doesn't mention that since Trump is counting from Election Day in November 2016, he's taking credit for jobs he didn't have any role in creating, given that Trump didn't assume the presidency until January 2017. Arter also doesn't mention that fewer jobs were created in 2017 than in 2016, the last full year of President Obama's term.
Arter further declined to note that the lower black unemployment rate is simply the continuation of a trend begun under Obama.
Shocker: an actual fact-check
Arter is capable of doing fact-checking -- when she feels like it anyway. One rare instance came regarding the Trump administration's decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. At CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, Nicholas Fondacaro ranted about "false information" being reported on the addition: "In reality, the last time a question about citizenship was asked on the census was back in 2000. According to the long-form questionnaire from that year, question 13 asked: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The question is repeated six times, once for each possible person in the household. The question was also asked in 1990 and 1980. All of this information was easily researchable on the Census Bureau’s website."
Fondacaro's take was so untrue that even Arter felt the need to set the record straight:
To be accurate, between 1970 and 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau used two questionnaires. Most households received a short-form questionnaire asking a minimum number of questions that did not include citizenship. But a sample of households received a long-form questionnaire in 1970, '80, '90, and 2000 that did include questions about "naturalization" or citizenship. The 2010 Census used just one short-form questionnaire consisting of ten questions -- none about citizenship. But since 2000, the Census Bureau has conducted an annual, national, ongoing "American Community Survey," which does ask about citizenship.
The truth didn't move Fondacaro to update or correct his false post, however. Maybe that's why Arter isn't inspired to do much fact-checking -- it's not rewarded at the MRC offices when the target is the Trump administration.
Still, that's an outlier. If Arter can't be bothered to fact-check anything that comes out of the Trump White House and merely acts as a servile stenographer, what good is she as a reporter?