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A look back at how cable news went all in on the debunked narrative that President Trump gassed peaceful protesters for a "photo op." pic.twitter.com/4pS4aQ8hpc
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 9, 2021
Collapsed Lafayette Square narrative is yet another ‘fact-checked’ story gone bad
Fact-checkers having to walk back ‘supposedly all-knowing rulings’ damaging media’s credibility, experts tell Fox News
By Fox News, June 11, 2021
Another left-leaning media narrative with fact-checker cover went belly-up this week, as an Inspector General report found former President Donald Trump did not have Lafayette Square forcefully cleared of protesters so he could pose in front of a church last year.
“Fact-checked” mainstream media stories unhelpful to Republicans or conservatives – like ones related to Russia or vaccine development or police shootings or the origins of the Coronavirus – have later fallen apart or been amended, updated, corrected, or retracted over the past few years. And observers are taking note it doesn’t seem to go the other way.
“I have been through a lot of fact checks, and I cannot recall a check favoring the right half of politics that’s been reversed,” the conservative Media Research Center’s Tim Graham told Fox News. “This pattern of fact checkers having to walk back their supposedly all-knowing rulings underlines how eager they are to solidify Democrat narratives and undermine conservative journalism.”
The latest example involves one of the more controversial episodes of Trump’s presidency. When the former president walked from the White House through Lafayette Square to visit a riot-torched St. John’s Church, protestors had already been cleared from the area. Many journalists concluded Trump had been the one to order the protestors out.
But an investigation released this week by Interior Department IG Mark Lee Greenblatt says U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Secret Service deemed it necessary to remove protestors from the park on June 1, 2020, in order to install anti-scale fencing. The decision was reached after at least 49 U.S. Park Police (USPP) were injured while policing protests days earlier.
At the time, there were numerous examples of media figures pushing the story that Trump demanded protesters to be cleared. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta asserted at a briefing that the White House had “gassed and pummeled protesters” so Trump could have a photo-op. MSNBC anchor Joy Reid said it happened so Trump could have his picture taken with a Bible. And CNN’s Anderson Cooper said it “obviously” happened for Trump’s photo-op.
The New York Times reported, “Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose At Church.” ABC News, MSNBC, NPR, the Washington Post, and other outlets also reported the story at the time. The Post produced a 12-minute video about how police “cleared the way for the president to cross Lafayette Square.”
Let’s start with @CNN, because they’re emblematic of the trend.
The causality here is clear: protestors forced out for Trump. The rest of their reporting fits that framing.
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) June 10, 2021
You may wonder what the impact of getting this wrong was.
I would recommend reading the inimitable @davidshor on polling “the real inflection point in our polling was the Lafayette Park incident…that’s when support for Biden shot up and it’s been pretty steady since” pic.twitter.com/OlCHgDt4bo
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) June 10, 2021
The widespread narrative got cover from CNN’s fact-checker Daniel Dale as well, who stated in February that “they cleared peaceful protesters out of the way for a Trump photo-op” and anything to the contrary was false.
Van der Veen falsely claims the clearing of Lafayette Square last June happened to "establish an appropriate security perimeter" from a "riotous mob." No. They cleared peaceful protesters out of the way for a Trump photo-op. The "narrative" van der Veen is mocking is correct.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 13, 2021
“When you fact check something and declare it as false as they later did, we get into a problem that erodes long-term confidence in the media by the general public,” former CNN digital producer Steve Krakauer told Fox News.
Krakauer, who also pens the Fourth Watch media newsletter, said fact checks had become “fetishized” in the mainstream press as more declarative of the truth than a traditional news report, with eye-catching ratings like PolitiFact’s “Pants On Fire” or the Washington Post’s “Four Pinocchios.” Politicians enthusiastically tout fact-checks when attacking opponents and raising funds; Hillary Clinton in 2016 frequently told people to read them during her campaign against Trump.
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