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Fact Check: The Washington Post on Donald Trump and John McCain
[Above image: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference]
Donald Trump appears to have gotten under the skin of not only Democrats, but also fellow Republicans and the news media. Has that subjected Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, to unfair and/or inaccurate reporting?
An article in the Washington Post today is headlined, “Trump slams McCain for being ‘captured’ in Vietnam.”
The article’s lead sentence states, “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, on Saturday by saying McCain was not a war herobecause he was captured by the North Vietnamese [emphasis added].”
Is this report accurate?
In fact, Trump’s actual quote is the opposite of what is presented in the Post’s first sentence.
1. The Post did not provide context at the outset disclosing that McCain and Trump have been feuding, with McCain characterizing some Trump supporters as “crazies” and Trump stating that McCain graduated last in his class in Annapolis. The charged rhetoric continued at the conservative Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa this weekend.
2. When a panelist characterized McCain as a “war hero,” the Post is accurate in reporting that Trump initially said McCain is “not a war hero.” But then, Trump immediately modified his statement saying– four times– that McCain is a war hero:
“He is a war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured.”
“He’s a war hero, because he was captured.”
“I believe, perhaps, he’s a war hero. But right now, he’s said some very bad things about a lot of people.”
3. Did Trump say McCain is not a war hero because he was captured? No, not in the exchanges represented in the Post.
4. Is the Post’s characterization an accident? It would appear not, because it is repeated in the Post’s caption of the video clip, which also states: “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a decorated Vietnam war veteran, was not a war hero because he was captured by the North Vietnamese [emphasis added].”
Further, in the Post’s second sentence, Trump is quoted as stating of McCain, “He’s not a war hero…He’s a war hero because he was captured,” but the article selectively left out the phrase Trump had uttered in between: “He is a war hero.”
Trump actually said the opposite of what the Post lead sentence and video caption claim. The Post might have been able to get away stating that Trump “implied” McCain was not a war hero because McCain was captured, but even that would have been a subjective interpretation since Trump had actually stated the opposite.
It’s true that Trump stated one time that McCain is not a war hero. But Trump stated four times that McCain is a war hero–and that was not accurately characterized in the article.
For interpreting and characterizing Trump’s true quote in a way that is at best questionable, and for selectively using some quotes and leaving others out, the Post receives Two Little Devils. (Ratings scale at end of article.)
Obviously, all are free to draw conclusions about any candidate or politician. But the news media has a responsibility to do its best to report accurately and fairly–even when reporters find a candidate and/or his positions to be personally distasteful.
Read the Washington Post article and watch the Donald Trump C-SPAN video excerpt:
2008 December: President Obama nominates Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. 2009 Jan. 13: Reports say the clintonemail.com domain was established. Jan. 21: Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state. March 18: Clinton will later name this as the date she began using a private server for government business. 2012 Sept. 11: Islamic extremists launch […]