At CNS, Trump Stenography Is Job 1
Not only does CNSNews.com publish statements by President Trump and his White House that are false (which it would know if it ever bothered to fact-check him), Trump may actually be CNS' assignment editor.
By Terry Krepel
CNS' Susan Jones -- a longtime Trump stenographer -- once again failed in fact-checking Trump in a Dec. 11 article. She began by gushing, "Clearly enjoying himself at a rally in Hershey, Pa., Tuesday night, President Trump lauded House passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which Democrats delayed for months, until the day they announced two articles of impeachment against Trump." In addition to uncritically repeating Trump's evidence-free conspiracy theory that Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats waited to announce the trade deal until the same day a House vote on Trump's impeachment was announced because "it plays down impeachment because they're embarrassed by the impeachment," Jones also repeated Trump's assertion that "our poll numbers have gone through the roof because of her stupid impeachment."
In an apparent attempt to bolster the claim, Jones embedded a link to a Real Clear Politics running list of polls -- which explained nothing, since it is just a list of polls and their results and offers no tracking. By contrast, actual news organizations that do actual analysis found Trump's claim less than factual.
The Washington Post reported that Trump's approval rating actually decreased since the impeachment inquiry was announced, while support for impeachment showed "a big surge since the inquiry began and relative flatness since." Even a Fox News poll taken shortly before Trump uttered his claim shows polling numbers on impeachment to be stable, with Vox noting that this mirrored other polling, while "one thing they do not show is the surge of support that Trump has been hyping as Democrats have moved toward impeaching him."
But fact-checking was not on Jones' agenda -- stenography was. She went on to rehash all his worn attack lines bashing impeachment and the media.
Trump has been talking a lot during the coronavirus pandemic, and CNS remains happy to just scribble down whatever he says without telling readers it's false. Jones transcribed in a March 18 article:
"I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the 'borders' from China - against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!"
But as an actual news outlet pointed out, Trump has a history of comments showing he did not, in fact, take it very seriously:
In late January, when a CNBC reporter asked if there were “worries about a pandemic” spreading from China, where it was first reported in December, he replied, “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
In a March 19 article, Melanie Arter uncritically repeated:
President Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration was prepared to deal with the pandemic of the coronavirus, but he wasn’t prepared to deal with the media.
But Trump did not offer a specific example of anyone at NBC calling him "racist" over that decision -- and, thus, neither did Arter. You'd think an example could be easily found if that actually happened.
The same day, Arter served up more stenography:
President Donald Trump announced “exciting progress” Thursday in finding therapy drugs to fight the coronavirus.
Arter didn't tell her readers that chloroquine had, in fact, not been approved to treat coronavirus.
Arter returned on March 24 for another false claim from Trump:
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a chance to order 16,000 ventilators five years ago for a discount, but he opted for death panels and lotteries instead, President Donald Trump said Tuesday.
In fact, McCaughey -- a longtime misinformer on the subject of health care -- appears to have misread a state report on pandemic preparedness, falsely interpreting a worst-case scenario that might require thousands of ventilators as a "chance" to buy them; the report does not even make a ruling on the optimal number of ventilators the state should have stockpiled. The "death panels" reference is to recommended procedures in the report regarding triage.
Jones wrote in an April 15 article headlined "Trump: 'I'm Not Going to Put Any Pressure on Any Governor to Open'":
President Trump on Tuesday announced that "plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized," and he said he will soon be sharing the details and guidelines with "everybody."
And a few days later, when Jones and Arter noted criticism of Trump's tweeted calls to "liberate" certain states, they didn't mention that this was a flip-flop of his promise not to "put any pressure on any governor to open."
The same day, Arter uncritically repeated Trump's threat to adjourn Congress over its alleged refusal to vote on some of his nominees. She didn't mention the 1) the Senate is controlled by Republicans, the part of which Trump belongs, or 2) the president has no power to adjourn Congress except in extremely limited circumstances.
On April 20, Craig Bannister took the stenography baton:
“You need to hear this because you’re being bombarded right now with these really over-the-top accusations against the president,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) says at the start of a video posted by Trump in which Crenshaw takes on the left-wing political propaganda regarding the coronavirus.
Since Bannister wouldn't fact-check Crenshaw's video, it was left to an actual news outlet to do so, which found that it contains "misrepresentations, incorrect and context-free claims and false choices."
Arter did her duty again in an April 21 article:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a street party in Chinatown in San Francisco at the end of February a month after President Donald Trump banned travel from China, the president pointed out Monday at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.
Trump was responding to a question about his early response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Because Arter is a stenographer and not a reporter, she made no effort to fact-check what Trump said or otherwise hold him accountable. Again, an actual news organization did, and found that Trump's claim was false:
So let’s look at what Pelosi did and how that tracks with Trump’s description.
Arter served up more stenography in an April 24 article:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday that he has been working on getting a loan of over $10 million to help the U.S. Postal Service, but the deal could be scrapped if the postal service doesn’t start charging companies like Amazon four times what it currently charges for sending packages.
Arter didn't mention that -- as an actual news outlet did -- Trump is trying to hurt Amazon because he doesn't like its founder Jeff Bezos, that arbitrarily jacking up shipping prices is stupid because shippers would instead use FedEx or UPS or, in Amazon's case, its own delivery system, and Trump has not offered any evidence that its shipping prices are so low that it loses money on every package it delivers.
Trump's press secretary got a pass on the most basic issue in a May 1 article by Arter:
A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday whether she would promise not to lie to reporters during the White House press briefings.
Arter didn't tell her readers that McEnany did, in fact, tell lies starting a mere 15 minutes after she pledged not to. Because at CNS, stenography, not facts, are what matters.
If CNS is going to be nothing more than a Trump stenography website, it should stop calling itself "news."
Donald Trump, CNS assignment editor
Not only does CNS publish Trump statements regardless of their veracity, it seems to be taking orders from Trump on what to cover. The Washington Post reported regarding President Trump's April 19 press briefing:
During the White House’s daily coronavirus news briefing Sunday, President Trump took a shot at the presumptive Democratic nominee for this year’s presidential election, former vice president Joe Biden.
The very next day, CNS reporter Patrick Goodenough cranked out an article designed to flesh out that Trump talking point -- almost as if CNS was working as an arm of the Trump re-election campaign:
The first three Democrat presidential debates held this year on Jan. 14, Feb. 7, and Feb. 19 contained a single, passing reference to the coronavirus outbreak that had emerged in China weeks earlier and was starting to spread.
After noting that Trump had brought up the Democratic debate the day before, Goodenough added more pro-Trump talking points:
“Coronavirus” first featured in a Trump tweet on Jan. 24, when he thanked China for “working very hard to contain the Coronavirus.” At the time the CDC had reported two confirmed cases in the U.S.
This is what happens when you make Trump -- and not, say, an actual journalist -- the assignment editor on your "news" desk.