In an article in the New York Times last week, writers Mark Landler and David Sanger claimed that a senior White House official told them that it was “impossible” to make the June 12 Singapore summit happen between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. Thanks to the sudden cancellation of the summit and the hasty re-implementation of the date, it just wouldn’t be possible.
Trump, in a tweet the next day, slammed the Times for making up more fake news. “The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.’ WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”
If you were following the news that day, you probably read approximately half a billion headlines mocking Trump for this tweet. The problem, according to each and every one of these stories? The source the Times quoted DOES exist and he gave a background briefing to around fifty members of the press. In other words, everyone in the room heard what he said, the Times didn’t make up a source, Trump is lying once again to stir up anti-media sentiment among his supporters, he should be impeached and put in prison for a hundred years.
Here’s the thing. The source DID exist, that much is true. But to act like Trump was just plainly lying…that doesn’t quite capture what happened here. In many ways, it’s identical to the way the media is saying Trump is wrong about the Obama intelligence community using a “spy” against his campaign. Well, whether you want to say he’s an “informant” or a “spy,” it comes to the same in the end. The media is playing a game of semantics instead of addressing the substantive truth of what Trump is or isn’t saying. And in this case, he was more right than wrong.
The White House official did speak to the press, and he did tell reporters that it would be difficult to make that June 12 date in Singapore. He did not, however, use the word “impossible” to describe that difficulty. That means it was the New York Times that mischaracterized the source’s comments. And if you’re going to do that, then you might as well be making your sources up out of thin air. We’re sure PolitFact has or will give the president a “Pants on Fire” rating for this debacle, but any fair reading of the situation would show that it was the media – not the president – that was being deceitful.