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MSNBC host Brian Williams began trending on social media Sunday as users debated the lack of merit in an anonymously sourced story by The Atlantic claiming President Donald Trump made disparaging comments about American war dead and the late Sen. John McCain.
So, please, by all means, tell me why a journalist would risk ruining their career and tarnishing their industry by making up a source.
— Olivia Krauth (@oliviakrauth) September 6, 2020
Last week, a story by The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg allegedly based on four anonymous sources claimed that, among other things, the president once referred to World War I soldiers and Marines as “losers” and “suckers.”
That claim seemed totally out of step and character for a president who has gone out of his way to thank, praise, and take care of the U.S. military.
The story also claimed that Trump shunned a visit in 2018 to a World War I cemetery in France where American dead were buried because the trip would mess his hair up. And, the alleged sources said the president was angry and frustrated at having to accommodate and honor the late John McCain (R-Ariz.) following his death from brain cancer two years ago.
But the veracity of the claims in the story, the alleged sources, and Goldberg himself were immediately attacked by a number of conservative journalists, as well as current and former Trump administration officials who said they were with the president in France and none of what he was accused of saying and doing actually happened.
I'm confident I have better sources within this White House than @JeffreyGoldberg, and I expect that upon investigation his anonymously sourced story will live up to the quality we can expect from The Atlantic under his leadership.
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) September 4, 2020
These were some of the moments I witnessed the President show his heart and demonstrate how much he respects the selfless and courageous men and women of our military. I am disgusted by this false attack.
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) September 4, 2020
In addition, documents obtained via Freedom Of Information Act requests proved that the president’s trip was canceled by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly because of inclement weather.
Here is the @JasonLeopold tweet from 2019 about these Navy FOIA records he obtained.
Today @JeffreyGoldberg described how the Atlantic was extra careful on this story. Also seems inaccurate.
Documents got by Leopold prove them wrong. Great job Jason!https://t.co/JUMWtKRuXg
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) September 4, 2020
Others, however, jumped to Goldberg’s defense when it appeared the AP, the Washington Post, FOX News correspondent Jennifer Griffin appeared to corroborate the claims and the sources.
But in fact, all of those outlets merely supported the anonymous sources — they didn’t name them or confirm their identities in any way, or their alleged connection to the administration and the president.
Griffin was singled out for extra criticism by the president himself, who called for her to be fired after he pointed out that she had not confirmed the most salacious allegations at all and never contacted the White House for comment.
In comments on social media Sunday, The Federalist’s senior editor and FOX News contributor Mollie Hemingway cited an “information operation” was underway to continue pushing the narrative despite the fact that no one has stepped forward to claim ownership of the comments.
“The only thing that would be ‘confirmed’ is that an anonymous information operation is going on. Which was already known when the first story ran. It does not ‘confirm’ the narrative the anon operation is attempting to push, obviously, just repeats it,” she wrote in response to someone who was defending the story.
The only thing that would be “confirmed” is that an anonymous information operation is going on. Which was already known when the first story ran. It does not “confirm” the narrative the anon operation is attempting to push, obviously, just repeats it. https://t.co/Rfxkm7Q8f7
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 6, 2020
“And this is obvious but even if one of the members of the info op put their name to their claims, they are disputed by a large number of on-the-record officials, government docs, and tons of photographic evidence of Trump with disabled vets,” she added.
And this is obvious but even if one of the members of the info op put their name to their claims, they are disputed by a large number of on-the-record officials, government docs, and tons of photographic evidence of Trump with disabled vets.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 6, 2020
As for Williams, he was suspended from his position as anchor of “NBC Nightly News” in February 2015 for lying about coming under fire while riding in a U.S. military helicopter covering the war in Iraq in 2003. He was summarily fired from that post in June and then demoted to his late-night anchor position on MSNBC.
As the debate over the lack of corroboration for Goldberg’s story and its heavy reliance on alleged anonymous sources raged online, Williams’ name began trending.
“Brian Williams agrees, therefore it’s definitely true,” conservative podcaster and FOX News contributor Dan Bongino wrote in response to an education reporter who claimed, “journalists don’t just make stuff up.”
Truthiness. He completely made up fantasies and is still on the air. pic.twitter.com/qb3TISPLix
— Peaceful Protest (TM) Meaux (@meauxgreen) September 6, 2020
This fake Atlantic story will be the end of @JeffreyGoldberg's career in the same way that a fake helicopter story was the end for Brian Williams & fake military papers were the end for @DanRather.
— Emerald Robinson ✝️ (@EmeraldRobinson) September 5, 2020
All vehemently disagree https://t.co/IWgNw4mD38
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) September 6, 2020
Dan Rather, Brian Williams, and Brian Ross would like a word https://t.co/5Mvq4Rr8mm
— Sunny McSunnyface (@sunnyright) September 4, 2020
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