According to Politico, per four different White House officials, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a warning to senior White House staff to stop slipping information to the President. It turns out that, by doing so, Trump was being fed fake news.
K.T. McFarland, Trump’s deputy National Security Adviser, in an attempt to influence the President’s stance regarding climate change, handed the President two covers of Time magazine. One cover, appearing to date back to 1970, warned about the dangers of an imminent ice age. Another cover, from 2008, was about surviving global warming.
While this sent Trump railing about the media’s hypocrisy, there was a problem. The Time cover from 1970 was a fake. It originated as an internet hoax and has since been circulated among far-right conspiracy theorists.
While officials chased down the President before he could publicly reference the fake news source, when interviewed by Politico, they still dug in their heels regarding the overall message:
“While the specific cover is fake, it is true there was a period in the 70s when people were predicting an ice age,” an official told Politico. “The broader point I think was accurate.”
One of the Trump administration’s gravest problems is, then, that instead of disavowing what is clearly fake news, the White House has not only exhausted itself, but decimated its own credibility by bending over backwards to try and defend Trump’s indefensible, inane, and baseless claims.
According to Politico, this has been a recurring theme in Trump’s White House:
The consequences can be tremendous, according to a half-dozen White House officials and others with direct interactions with the president. A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.
That is what happened in late February when someone mischievously gave the president a printed copy of an article from GotNews.com, the website of Internet provocateur Charles C. Johnson, which accused deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh of being “the source behind a bunch of leaks” in the White House.
No matter that Johnson had been permanently banned from Twitter for harassment or that he offered no concrete evidence or that he’s lobbed false accusations in the past and recanted them. Trump read the article and began asking staff about Walsh. Johnson told POLITICO that he tracks the IP addresses of visitors to his website and added: “I can tell you unequivocally that the story was shared all around the White House.”
In his already short tenure as President, Trump has upended the White House’s credibility. He has erroneously claimed that Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped, which led to a congressional investigation into the matter. Trump asserted that three to five million undocumented immigrants illegally voted in the 2016 Presidential election, and duly started the unnecessary Election Integrity Commission. Trump still maintains that thousands of Muslims celebrated on the rooftops in Jersey City following the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, of which there is absolutely no evidence.
Meanwhile, Trump has blasted the mainstream media on a near-constant basis, referring to respected news outlets as “fake news.” Most recently, Trump decried the media for refusing to air his ad celebrating his 100th day in office. He labeled journalists from CNN, PBS, ABC, CBS, and MSNBC as “fake news” in that very ad.
Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
While Trump may try to condemn any critical analysis of him as fake news, the only evidence that anyone has been duped by false information points right back to Donald Trump himself. If he took even half of the effort on perpetuating accurate information as he spends railing against his “enemies” in the media, perhaps he wouldn’t be nursing an unprecedented and historically low approval rating as the least popular President in modern history.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.