Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - Updated: 9:44 AMDonald Trump made his ongoing assault on “fake news” a prominent part of his first post-election press conference this week.
But he didn’t stop at just berating it. He showed once again he’s one of the best at creating it.
The hottest moment in the press conference came when he ripped the online website BuzzFeed and CNN for their reporting about a 35-page dossier held by Russia that is alleged to contain compromising information about him.
Trump angrily branded the document phony and a “total political witch hunt.” He then said the two news organizations acted irresponsibly, which was only half-right.
I agree BuzzFeed was wrong to post the dubious claims. Editor Ben Smith rationalized the decision as allowing Americans to “make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect.”
That’s not a persuasive justification for publishing unverified smears, and other news organizations, including CNN, have sharply criticized BuzzFeed’s decision.
But because CNN was the first network to report that the president and president-elect had been briefed by intelligence officials about the dossier, Trump unfairly put the network in the same unethical boat as BuzzFeed.
CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to get in a question at the press conference, asking, “Since you are attacking us, can you give us a question?”
“Not you,” Trump replied, “Your organization is terrible....You are fake news.”
Trump has been miffed by CNN’s coverage in the past and seemed eager to take another shot at the network, even though it was his accusation, not CNN’s reporting, that was false.
The president-elect said a few other things to the reporters that don’t hold water.
Asked if he would ever release his tax returns, he said, “The only ones that care about my tax returns are the reporters.You learn very little in a tax return.”
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center showed 60 percent of Americans believe he has a responsibility to release his returns as other presidents have done. They would tell a lot about his finances, including his effective tax rate, his sources of income and his disputed charitable contributions.
Talking about the need to replace the Affordable Care Act, he said, “Some states have over a 100 percent (premium) increase (for 2017).”
Only one state (Arizona) had an increase over 100 percent. Alabama had the second highest at 71 percent. The average across all states was 25 percent, and the vast majority of enrollees qualify for subsidies that offset the premium hikes.
Trump said the Obama administration “created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed.”
That statement seriously oversimplifies the reasons the terrorist group developed, which include the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Syrian civil war and the weakening of the Iraqi army. It also ignores the fact the President George W. Bush signed the withdrawal agreement and that Trump himself had called for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in 2007.
Trump claimed the nation’s real unemployment rate is several times higher than the one issued by Bureau of Labor Statistics, which last month reported 7.5 million people unemployed for a rate of 4.7 percent.
“Ninety-six million really wanting a job and they can’t get (one). You know that story. That’s the real number,” he said.
The bureau counts only people who are looking for a job and can’t find one as unemployed. Getting the total to 96 million would have to include retirees, college and high school students, stay-at-home parents and people with disabilities.
Yes, there is a lot of fake news swirling around out there. Trump, however, has been sending up more than he’s shooting down.
Reach Steve Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.