Fake News for the Week Ending January 19, 2019

Here’s what’s happened last week in the world of fake news:

  • Activists printed and circulated a fake version of the Washington Post with a headline claiming “UNPRESIDENTED: TRUMP HASTILY DEPARTS WHITE HOUSE, ENDING CRISIS.” All fake, Trump has not resigned, and it has nothing to do with the real Washington Post. More here, from NPR.
  • Several right-wing websites and many social media posts claimed that the first two Muslim women elected to Congress co-sponsored a bill to recognize Muslim holidays as federal holidays. Totally fake, although real-sounding enough for many right-wingers to glom onto it. Here’s the original fake story.
  • After president Trump invited the Clemson football team to the White House and served them a variety of fast-food treats, the following quote, falsely attributed to quarterback Trevor Lawrence, began circulating: “President Trump got all our favorite foods, it was the best meal we ever had. Then we go see the coastal elite media trashing it for not being organic vegan. We’re football players, not bloggers. This was a perfect blue collar party.” Lawrence never said this, and in fact disavowed it immediately. More on this from the Washington Post.
  • And the biggest fake news story last week concerned a BuzzFeed article that claimed president Trump directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump’s proposed Moscow Trump Tower project. If true, this would mean that Trump himself is guilty of suborning perjury, a Federal crime. Not surprisingly, Trump and his allies denied the story and painted it as “fake news.” More surprisingly, the office of special council Robert Mueller also disputed the story — or at least some of the facts in the story. From Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesman: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.” Note that this is not an outright denial, only a statement that some of the details are not accurate; BuzzFeed editors, in fact, stand by their original reporting. We don’t know enough yet to say whether or not BuzzFeed’s article was truly inaccurate (and thus, as Trump describes it, “fake news”), or whether there’s more to the story than what is currently public. Here’s the original BuzzFeed article, and here’s CNN’s reportage of Mueller’s denial.

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