A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Here are a few recent examples of your tax dollars at work. This week, the Trump administration distributed:
– Multiple tweets from the president that tried (and failed) to justify his incorrect claims that Alabama was, as of Sunday, at risk of being “hit” by Hurricane Dorian.
– A misleading statement from Trump’s homeland security adviser that attempted to justify Trump’s falsehoods
– An op-ed by Stephanie Grisham and Hogan Gidley attacking the Post. The op-ed contained multiple errors.
– A video from the president’s Twitter account containing out-of-date info about Dorian, in an attempt to critique CNN, followed by an amateurish graphic of a CNN logo driving and crashing.
All of this disinformation is taxpayer-funded. It is being directly supported by the American people.
Another anti-CNN video
Friday night’s anti-CNN video is reminiscent of the 2017 meme showing Trump wrestling a CNN logo. Trump’s fans are praising him for A+ trolling, ignoring the clear risk of a president inciting violence against figures he has deemed enemies. And Trump’s critics are trying to make sure people see the seriousness of this situation.
Philly Inquirer columnist Will Bunch tweeted: “The Alabama stuff is bat-guano crazy but the scary part of his new video is showing CNN (logo) in a fiery lethal car crash at the end. He is openly urging violence against my sisters and brothers in journalism. He is a dangerous dictator who will get people killed. He already has.”
Grisham’s anti-press tactics
Politico’s Quint Forgey said Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s still-new press secretary and communications director, “flashed signs this week of how she’ll serve as Donald Trump’s defender-in-chief.”
Forgey wrote, “The broadsides from Grisham against major media outlets, paired with her reluctance to advocate on-air on behalf of the administration, represent a departure from her predecessors’ approach to the role of press secretary.”
Oliver Darcy tweeted: “The President is spending his Friday afternoon sharing anti-CNN memes & videos attacking The Washington Post for ‘fake news.’ This caps off a week of the President himself peddling actual fake news about Alabama/Dorian. He wants left to be right, and right to be upside down.”
The storm over Alabama
The state was obviously spared by Dorian. And many, many more journalistic resources are thankfully being devoted to the Bahamas and the Carolinas right now. But a number of fact-checkers are trying to untangle Trump’s lies on top of lies about Alabama being in the path of the hurricane. On Friday an unnamed NOAA spokesman got roped in: The agency came out with a statement trying to justify Trump’s bogus claims and criticizing the National Weather Service’s Birmingham office for telling the truth about the forecast track.
Quick reminder: The truth is that, on Sunday morning, when Trump began making his strange statements about Alabama, the state was not being threatened by Dorian in any way. No amount of spin will change that.
On Friday night Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, lambasted NOAA’s characterization of events and defended the agency’s employees. “Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight #NOAA,” he tweeted. So, this just keeps getting worse. As NBC’s Al Roker asked Friday night, “Where will this end?”
Here’s the thing about Trump and Alabama
Here’s the main point I want to make. If, on Sunday, Trump actually believed that Alabama was at risk, it shows a shocking lack of knowledge about geography, science, and storms. Everyone watching TV on Sunday knew Dorian was a Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, and Carolinas storm. A single glimpse at a map showed that Alabama wasn’t going to be “hit.” So what does this episode tell us about Trump’s critical thinking skills and his unwillingness to admit to mistakes?
>> Chris Hayes’ answer on MSNBC Friday night: We’re “watching the president lose his mind.”
>> Of course, over on Fox Business, Lou Dobbs made this all about the news coverage, saying “the national left-wing media went apoplectic over the past few days.”
Trump’s message is… ?!
NYT’s Maggie Haberman tweeted that she saw a journalist “chiding other reporters for focusing on administration missteps and not message.” Well, she said, the message this week “has been…WashPost/media bad and Alabama real. Not trade, not economy, not almost anything else.” Exactly. Another wasted week…
All of this is related
Remember: This week began with Trump saying that his “primary opponent” is not the Dems or never-Trump Republicans, it’s the “fake news media.” The more he tears down real reporting, the more he can convince voters that what he says is true.