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At CNS, Trump Stenography Is Job 1

Not only does 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
Posted 5/14/2020

Melanie Arter

ConWebWatch has documented how has served as loyal Trump stenographer throughout his presidency, dutifully transcribing every utterance from the president's mouth without regard to the veracity of the claims. That has remained true as Trump has careened from impeachment hearings to the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

Coronavirus stenography

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!"

President Trump issued that tweet shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday, after listening to negative coverage from the morning news shows.

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.”

While speaking about the first cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. at a White House news conference on Feb. 26, he claimed that "pretty soon" there could only be one or two people affected.

“We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people,” Trump said. “And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.”

The next day, at a White House meeting, he said, "It's going to disappear. One day -- it's like a miracle - it will disappear." He has suggested, without firm scientific evidence, that warmer weather would stop the spread.

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.

The president complained that the press, and specifically NBC News, called him “racist” for banning foreign nationals traveling from China from entering the United States.

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.

Not only has a drug that’s used to fight malaria and treat arthritis shown promise in fighting COVID-19, but the administration is looking at drugs used overseas to treat the virus.


The president pointed to chloriquine, a drug that has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis and malaria, as a potential treatment for COVID-19.


["]They've been trying for many decades to get this approved. It sounds simple, but it's not, because there is liability involved in lots of other things. I was able to get it approved, working with Congress. Right to try. This is beyond right to try. What we are talking about today is beyond right to try.["]

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.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Cuomo complained that the federal government only sent 400 ventilators, when they needed 30,000.


Trump was referring to an op-ed by former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey published March 19, 2020 by the New York Post:

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."

"I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly, and I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening, and a very powerful reopening a time and in a manner as most appropriate."

Trump said different states will open in different ways and at different times, "maybe even before the date of May 1st."

Trump also said, "I'm not going to put any pressure on any governor to open."
Jones didn't mention that Trump's statement was a complete flip-flop from just the day before, when he claimed "total" authority over governors to reopen their states, and that "a torrent of backlash from governors and even members of his own party pointedly reminding him of the constitutional restraints on presidential power" forced Trump's flip-flop.

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.

Trump posted the video in Sunday night tweet, declaring it “Brilliant, a Must Watch.” Rep. Crenshaw opens his video, titled “Debunking the Left’s COVID-19 Narrative,” by noting some of the charges the Left is leveling against Trump:


Crenshaw, then, contrasts how Trump warned about, and took steps against, the coronavirus with what the liberal media and Democrat politicians were doing at the time.

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.


[TRUMP:] Why was Nancy Pelosi — right? — Nancy Pelosi is holding a street fair. She wants a street fair in San Francisco, in Chinatown, to prove — you know what the purpose of it was — to prove that there’s no problem. Many other politicians did the same thing. … People are amazed at how early I acted, and I did act early.

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.

Pelosi visited San Francisco’s Chinatown on Feb. 24. To view videos of her visits two months later is almost jarring, as she strolls arm-in-arm and walks amid a crowd. She made clear the point of her visit was to show it was “very safe to be in Chinatown,” which had been hit hard by a drop in tourism after reports of the virus emerging from China.


Other than a reference to a parade that took place two weeks earlier, Pelosi did not propose a parade, a street fair or a party, as Trump claimed. She never indicated she doubted the virus existed, as Trump claimed. She promoted Chinese businesses, even tweeting a brief video of her making fortune cookies.


He accused her of causing many deaths, when there have been none in Chinatown and relatively few in San Francisco. He says she urged street fairs and parades, but that’s not true. She advocated patronage of Chinese businesses.

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.

President Donald Trump announced on Friday at a signing ceremony for the $484 billion coronavirus relief bill that the postal service charges too little to send packages for companies like Amazon, and unless they increase their prices for these companies - not consumers - he would not sign anything giving the postal service more money, and he would not authorize Mnuchin to do anything.

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.

“It has been 100 days since the press secretary stood there. Are you planning to do these daily meetings? And will you pledge never to lie to us from that podium?” a reporter asked.

“I will never lie to you. You have my word on that. As to the timing of the briefings, we do plan to do them. I will announce timing of that forthcoming, but we do plan to continue these,” McEnany.

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.

“I do want to read something that I just saw today on television,” Trump said. “I was looking and I just said, ‘That’s an interesting statement.’ We talk about the Democrats, and it was a statement made by Bret Baier, good guy, smart.”

“'On February 19th, there was a Democratic debate in Las Vegas,' Trump read. “That was February 19th. That’s way after I closed entrance from China into our country. So Bret goes, ‘On February 19th there was a Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Three words weren’t said during the debate — virus, coronavirus or covid-19. Those three words never came up.’”

“That was — I just thought it was a very interesting,” Trump added, “because, you know, you hear these people, some of the people, the Democrats said, oh, this, that. It never even was a part of their dialogue.”

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.

That sole reference came from former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, during the Feb. 7 debate in Manchester, N.H., who said, “The next president is going to face challenges from global health security, like what we’re seeing coming out of China.”

None of the other candidates raised the issue, and neither did the ABC News moderators. The word “coronavirus” was not mentioned. (Neither was “COVID-19,” although the World Health Organization only came up with that name for the disease on Feb. 11.)

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.

On Jan. 29, the White House announced the formation of the coronavirus task force, and on Jan. 31 Trump declared the outbreak a public health emergency. When he delivered his State of the Union on February 4, Trump said the administration “will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from” the coronavirus threat.

This is what happens when you make Trump -- and not, say, an actual journalist -- the assignment editor on your "news" desk.

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