President Donald Trump said in an unannounced speech at the White House today that “I don’t do cover-ups,” despite ample examples to the contrary. Trump’s comments came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters that House Democrats “believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.” Some national news outlets and political reporters uncritically repeated Trump’s false claim on Twitter as they reported his remarks.
Twitter accounts from major national news outlets, including The Hill, Reuters, CNN, and ABC News, and some political journalists such as CNN’s Manu Raju, The New York Times’ Peter Baker, and PBS’ Judy Woodruff repeated Trump’s claim without informing their audiences that it is false.
JUST IN: Pres. Trump responds to Speaker Pelosi's comment that he's engaged in a “cover-up.”
— ABC News (@ABC) May 22, 2019
The outlets and journalists could have easily included the proper context in their tweets as The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker did:
“I don't do cover-ups,” Trump says, making no mention of the hush money payments to a porn star and a Playmate to secure their silence about his affairs in the weeks before 2016 election https://t.co/ThzhWtDwKA
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 22, 2019
There are numerous examples of Trump covering up actions that might paint him in an unflattering light or put him in legal jeopardy, and the news outlets mentioned above have reported on them in the past. Just two such examples are special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings of multiple cases in which Trump attempted to obstruct his investigation, and Trump’s involvement in the false narrative that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting at the Trump Tower with several Russians was about adopting children, when it was actually about seeking “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Hill, Reuters, CNN, and ABC News have reported on these issues.
Uncritically repeating Trump’s lies, falsehoods, and outright propaganda on social media is an ongoing problem for major news outlets. News organizations and journalists must include the context of the president’s lies when reporting on social media about what Trump and officials in his administration are saying, because failing to do so is irresponsible.