After being called out, NPR undermines its own story in Editor’s Note: “Trump Jr. did not address what Cohen has now admitted”
NPR posted the type of “scoop” story that has become common among journalists trying to out-do each other in going after all things Trump: “Trump Jr.’s 2017 Testimony Conflicts With Cohen’s Account Of Russian Talks.”
The point of the story, however, was premised on a clear misreading of the transcripts because there is no conflict between the testimonies of Donald Trump, Jr. and Michael Cohen.
After being called out on their error, NPR changed the article’s title to “Cohen’s Account Of Russia Talks Raises Questions About Trump Jr. 2017 Testimony” and added an “Editor’s Note” to explain that there is no there there . . . yet the story is, as of this writing, still live on NPR’s site and without a full retraction.
Mollie Hemingway and Sean Davis at The Federalist led the charge in debunking the NPR story.
Hemingway wrote at The Federalist:
NPR falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 conflicted with an account given by a former attorney for President Donald Trump.
Here is NPR’s false write-up of that testimony:
Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 that although there had been negotiations surrounding a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow, they concluded without result ‘at the end’ of 2014.
‘But not in 2015 or 2016?’ Trump Jr. was asked.
‘Certainly not ’16,’ he said. ‘There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue.’
Trump’s account contrasts with the new version of events given by Cohen on Thursday in a guilty plea in federal court. In that new version, Cohen says the discussions with at least one Russian government official and others in Moscow continued through June 2016, well into Trump’s presidential campaign.
In fact, Senate investigators were asking Trump Jr. about a series of efforts to develop property in Russia, going back several years. Reporter Phil Ewing (reporter Tim Mak contributed to the story) conflates one of those efforts with another separate effort. That conflation results in the false news report.
A full 100 pages before the portion Ewing quotes, Trump Jr. explicitly contradicts NPR’s false claim when he gives a clear answer to the following question:
Q. It’s been reported that in late 2015 or 2016 when now President Trump was running for office the Trump Organization was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow. Is that accurate?
A hundred pages later, the investigator asks if there was an effort by Felix Sater to “bring together a development in Moscow.” Trump Jr. says he believes there was an effort to work on that with Cohen in 2015. Asked if he knew about the deal, he says not much, but that it got to the point his father signed a letter of intent. He said he would provide a copy of that letter. Trump Jr. says he was aware of this deal “peripherally.”
The transcripts give lie to the NPR story, making it a clear example of the type of #FakeNews that President Trump decries.
Once you see the transcript, which NPR presumably had since they quoted from it, it's really, REALLY hard to see how this happened. The entire premise of the story—which is still posted, btw, just with a slightly more cautious headline—was false. https://t.co/btmVCHoNrW
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 30, 2018
The story’s author, Phil Ewing, claims that he simply misread what the transcripts said.
I misunderstood the material in our transcript story today and it has been updated with a correction. Thank you to everyone who pointed out the issues. I made a mistake and the responsibility was entirely mine.
— Phil Ewing (@philewing) November 30, 2018
The Federalist continued:
As is obvious from the context, the quotes Ewing used weren’t about the Cohen efforts, but the Agalarov efforts.
What makes Ewing’s error so surprising is that the very next two lines make abundantly clear that the discussion is not about the Cohen efforts but the Agalarov efforts. Here’s a brief exchange with Trump’s attorney:
Q. How did that deal first come about?
MR. FUTERFAS: Which, just for clarification?
MR. PRIVOR: The Agalarovs in 2014.
This NPR story appears to be wrong. It notes that Trump Jr. told a Senate committee that a deal in Moscow died of "deal fatigue" by 2014.
— Philip Bump (@pbump) November 30, 2018
Rather than pull the story and issue an apology, NPR chose to retitle it and add the following Editor’s Note:
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report mischaracterized an answer Donald Trump Jr. gave to Senate investigators in 2017 about the prospective projects his family was negotiating with people in Moscow.
The story reported that Trump Jr.’s response — that negotiations on one project concluded by the end of 2014 — contrasted with the version of events as laid out in the guilty plea by Michael Cohen on Thursday. In fact, Trump Jr. and investigators were alluding to a different set of negotiations — not to a deal that Cohen was reportedly pursuing. Trump Jr. did acknowledge in his testimony that Cohen and another man were exploring a possible deal in Moscow in 2015 or 2016.
Trump Jr. did not address what Cohen has now admitted — that talks about such a deal continued at least into June 2016, longer than previously known and well into the presidential campaign. [Emphasis mine]
So wait, “Trump Jr. did not address what Cohen has now admitted — that talks about such a deal continued at least into June 2016, longer than previously known and well into the presidential campaign,” but NPR is still saying that Cohen’s account “Raises Questions” about Trump Jr’s testimony . . . about something else entirely? How does that work?
So why does #FakeNews matter? Because it is spread by unthinking and/or agenda-driven people who don’t really care about the truth or whether or not what they are spreading is fact or, as in this case, pure fiction.
A good lesson for all kids (and for anyone in the White House): the truth always comes out. https://t.co/ox7kMjs65c
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) November 30, 2018
Oh look, another felony!https://t.co/9imGOxKcsY
— John Schindler (@20committee) November 30, 2018
Now you might think that Schindler, upon seeing that NPR’s original tweet had been deleted (viewable here via archive.is), might note this. But no, in the cascade of anti-Trump vitriol that follows this tweet, Schindler, as of this writing, makes no mention at all of NPR’s fakery.
But the damage is being done:
It’s increasingly clear Donald Trump Jr misled Sen Judiciary in closed-door testimony. There’s no excuse for GOP ignoring @SenFeinstein & our demands that he return to testify—IN PUBLIC—about his family’s ever-changing story & Russian connections in 2016. https://t.co/tKxZpmVkfK
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) November 30, 2018
While Trump Jr. is pushing back, the #FakeNews will take hold and become “truth” for the Trump Deranged.
You were saying senator??? Please correct this immediately so you aren’t misleading many people now that even NPR corrected their sloppy attempt to smear me. https://t.co/dm8np9RIcN
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 30, 2018
We have deleted an earlier tweet that mischaracterized an answer Donald Trump Jr. gave to Senate investigators. See below for our full editor’s note. https://t.co/qywUjrs57b
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) December 1, 2018
Yet the story, now without any foundation at all, remains and without a full retraction.
Last year, President Trump and the GOP released the 2017 Fake News Awards; perhaps NPR felt left out and are attempting an 11th hour bid to make the 2018 Fake News Awards list? They’ve certainly earned a place in the Trump Derangement Syndrome Fake News Hall of Fame.DONATE
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