CNN goes to great lengths to fact-check the president and point out his many supposedly “false claims,” sifting through a ton of trivialities in search of any and all misstatements and labeling them as lies.
To the minions at CNN, any misstated fact or stat is another lie on the road to impeachment, on orders from the very top. See Part 1 of this two-part series. As a lib-lapdog for the Democrats, CNN can get pretty picayune, and pretty persnickety.
But who fact-checks CNN?
It is my turn, as a longtime journalist turned crisis advisor and media strategist. Here is a look at the CNN fact-check article on President Trump’s recent cabinet meeting, dissecting some of its little barbs of opinion. Let’s start with the headline: "Fact check: Trump made at least 21 false claims in angry Cabinet monologue" (Oct. 22).
“False claims,” that is quite an accusation, it invokes insurance fraud and implies the president said these things knowingly to gain some kind of hidden advantage. Dark, indeed. Also, “monologue” is a passive-aggressive slam, “angry” is opinion rather than fact. Through much of the 70-minute video clip of the cabinet meeting on YouTube here, President Trump sounds calm and affable to me, and never angry.
Now for the story’s jeering lead:
"(CNN) — President Donald Trump delivered a blistering and rambling monologue to the journalists he allowed into his Cabinet meeting for more than 70 minutes on Monday. His press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, later tweeted, 'I hope we see honest reporting from today's mtg.'"
"We can honestly tell you that Trump's remarks were highly dishonest."
“Blistering and rambling” is opinion rather than fact. Saying the president’s “remarks were highly dishonest” is a judgment: how highly? “Dishonest” implies intent to mislead, rather than simply being mistaken.
On to more specific points.
Kim Jong Un and Obama. President Trump says President Obama tried calling North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un 11 times, but Kim declined to take Obama’s call.
CNN: “There is no apparent basis for the claim that Obama tried to call Kim Jong Un 11 times.”
Wait a minute: “no apparent basis” falls short of proving this Trump claim is false. It does sound like a reach, maybe Trump made it up; but, also, maybe that is what Kim told Trump privately. Or, perhaps, the president heard or read something on this somewhere and repeated it, or it may be even true. CNN cannot know for sure, yet it deems this patently false. Rush to judgment.
Trump: “I didn’t want to go into Iraq.”
CNN: “Trump didn’t publicly oppose the invasion of Iraq before it began.”
Hang on, President Trump never said he “publicly opposed the invasion before it began.” False comparison. Perhaps he held back to avoid criticizing our government in mid-conflict. CNN admits Trump explicitly opposed the war 17 months after the Iraq invasion, then finger-wags about it:
CNN: “That is not the same as ‘I was against going to the war.'” This is petty. Plus, who cares, anyway?
Presidential salary. Trump said he gives away his and, “They say that no other president has done it.”
CNN: JFK and Hoover did so. Okay, got him, and… so what?
Emoluments Clause. President Trump challenged critics of his short-lived idea to host the 2020 G7 meeting at a resort he owns in Miami, saying “You people with the phony Emoluments Clause.” Now, he probably meant phony assertions that this would violate the clause, yet the preachy fact checkers at CNN.com chose to take the president literally:
CNN: “There’s nothing phony about the Constitution’s prohibitions against the President receiving payments from foreign and domestic governments.” That isn’t what President Trump was saying, really, and CNN knows it. Only 110 words later does CNN admit: “Trump might have been attempting to argue that it is phony to apply the clause to his own activities, but, at the very least, his wording left an inaccurate impression.”
Sniff, sniff. What a scold. That is some gotcha, what a victory for democracy. Setting the record straight on an already obvious and unimportant point.
Deal with Turkey. Russia and Turkey now are in direct negotiations regarding Syria, as a result of President Trump’s much-criticized pullback of 50 U.S. troops from a spot near the Turkish border. “People have been trying to make this deal for years,” Trump says, and I believe he refers to decades-long simmering tensions over Syria, generally. CNN insists Trump is referring, instead, to a ceasefire that is only a few days old: “The President’s claim is baseless to the point of being nonsensical.”
That is some attitude: who the hell do you think you are? Calling this “nonsensical” is anything but factual, it is an opinion and a judgment, and CNN and its shade-slingers ought to summon the courage to admit it. Instead, they feign objectivity.
Crowd size in Dallas. Trump said “I had 25,000 people in that arena.”
CNN: Says the stadium has a capacity of 20,000, the local paper reported 18,500, and then it points out, gratuitously: “Trump paused mid-speech to ask the fire marshal to let more people in to fill empty space at floor level.” That has nothing to do with fact-checking crowd size. That’s just being obnoxious.
When Trump goes on to say, “I haven’t had an empty seat at a rally,” which to me is obvious hyperbole rather than a literal claim, CNN rushes to the correction:
“There have been empty seats at various Trump rallies . . .” and lists four in the past two years. Ooh, you really got him that time, CNN! Trump never meant this literally, and CNN knows it.
China economy. President Trump says it is the worst it has been in 57 years, largely because of the tariffs he imposed to force China to the bargaining table. CNN claims another gotcha: it’s 27 years. As Hillary Clinton might say, “What difference does it make?”
Similarly, when Trump says China is “eating the tariffs,” CNN corrects him:
“Americans make the actual tariff payments…” I call error: I haven’t written out a single check or charged a credit card to “make the actual tariff payments.” Have you? And so far much of the impact is being absorbed without spawning higher prices to consumers. So is that a “lie” from the fact-checkers at CNN — or did they just err in the imprecise wording of it, and leave out an important point?
Same goes for President Trump, right?
This article is Part 2 of a series. To read Part 1 — Click Here Now.
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York. Previously he was an anchor at CNBC and at Fox Business Network, after serving as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of Forbes. He helped write “Wealth Mismanagement: A Wall Street Insider on the Dirty Secrets of Financial Advisers and How to Protect Your Portfolio,” by Ed Butowsky, published in August 2019 by Post Hill Press. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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