In October 2017, CNN launched what they called a “Facts First” campaign to counter Trump’s narrative that the cable news outlet was a non-stop source of “fake news.” The move was met with much praise and fanfare, including from Variety, which published this report:
In what may be one of the most distinctive and unorthodox promotional campaigns from the Time Warner cable-news outlet since Ted Turner launched it in 1980, CNN will push back against the portrayal by critics and members of the Trump administration that it dispenses made-up stories to the public in deliberate fashion. A new branding campaign gives the network a new slogan: “Facts First.”
One of the promos, which start appearing on CNN today, shows a stark picture of an apple on the screen, while music plays. “This is an apple,” says a narrator. “Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream ‘Banana. Banana. Banana.’ over and over and over again. They might put ‘banana’ in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not,” counsels the voice. “This is an apple.”
— CNN (@CNN) October 23, 2017
Since that time, CNN has continuously tried without much success to push back on claims from Republicans including Trump that it leans left, that it more often than not only gives you one side of the story, and/or that it frequently gives you the wrong side of the story.
Their “Facts First” campaign has done little in the way of convincing their critics that the network is on the up and up, especially when you consider how they routinely hold Democrats to different standards than they do Republicans.
But though their duplicity has been well-documented, a pretty remarkable thing happened this past weekend on their website. They fact checked claims President Trump made about Squad leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and ended up owning … themselves.
Here’s how their resident fact checker Daniel Dale set it up – the bolded emphasis is added by me:
During an exchange with reporters as he left the White House on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump made false accusations against both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar, two of the four Democratic members of Congress against whom he launched a racist “go back” attack earlier in the week.
“The first lady thinks that it’s horrible what they’ve said about Israel and horrible what they’ve said about our country, these congresswomen. They can’t call our country and our people ‘garbage.’ They can’t be anti-Semitic. They can’t talk about evil Jews, which is what they say. ‘Evil Jews,’ ” Trump said Friday.
In both cases, he was twisting a quote to bolster his allegation that “they hate our country.”
Facts First: Ocasio-Cortez did not call Americans “garbage”; she said in March that the country has gone so far in the wrong direction that people shouldn’t be satisfied with moderate policies that are merely “10% better from garbage.” None of the congresswomen have uttered the phrase “evil Jews”; Omar tweeted in 2012 that Israel had committed “evil doings.”
Here’s where the self-own comes in: Trump didn’t just say that AOC called the American people “garbage” – he also said she called our country “garbage”, which is true once you read the context of the AOC quote, which Dale helpfully provides:
Ocasio-Cortez, a New York congresswoman, did not call any person “garbage,” much less Americans as a group.
Ocasio-Cortez was asked at an event at the South by Southwest festival why it has taken so long for there to be Democratic candidates who run on bold progressive policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
Ocasio-Cortez said the country has drifted so far in the wrong direction, away from helping average working people, that ambitious initiatives are necessary. Given that society has “strayed so far away from what has really made us powerful and just and good and equitable and productive,” she said, “moderate” policies are insufficient.
“I think all of these things sound radical compared to where we are. But where we are is not a good thing. This idea of 10% better from garbage shouldn’t be what we settle for. It feels like moderate is not a stance, it’s just an attitude toward life of like, ‘meh,’ ” she told her interviewer from The Intercept.
Her remark can be interpreted as her saying that the current state of the country is “garbage.” But it is false to say, as Trump did, that she called “our people” garbage.
Trump was briefly closer to accurate in his rally speech in North Carolina on Wednesday, in which he said, “She described contemporary America” as garbage. But he then added, “That’s you, that’s me, that’s all of us — as garbage.” That’s just not true.
Notice how Dale continuously ignores the part of the quote from Trump he gave in the first part of the fact check, where Trump said AOC had called the country “garbage”? Here’s the full quote again:
“They can’t call our country and our people ‘garbage.'”
It’s almost like Dale didn’t even notice the “country” part of Trump’s quote. I guess he was so eager to white knight for AOC that he conveniently overlooked the part of his quote that was an accurate representation of what Ocasio-Cortez has said about America.
A Washington Post video editor posted a video clip of what AOC said so it could be viewed in context. He thinks it exonerates her, but it doesn’t:
Reminder: @AOC did not call Americans “garbage.”
From her March 2019 interview at SXSW:
“We’ve strayed so far away from what has really made us powerful and just and good and equitable and productive. … And this idea of 10% better from garbage shouldn’t be what we settle for.” pic.twitter.com/7KgfaQMZmy
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) July 19, 2019
If the media firefighters at CNN, the WaPo, and elsewhere wanted to say that Trump was only half correct in his assessment on what AOC has said about America and its people, that would be one thing. In the AOC quote in question, she didn’t say the American people were garbage, but the context made it clear that she was saying the country is garbage.
The transcript backs that up and so does the video – both of which were, rather ironically, provided by newsies trying to disprove Trump’s insinuation that AOC hates America. News outlets that suggest otherwise are doing the whole apple=banana thing, and in the process are taking part in the same type of “fake news” stories they say they don’t push.
— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –