Media Matters surveyed President Donald Trump’s 2,276 tweets from the first year of his presidency from January 20, 2017, until January 16, 2018, and found that at least 23 percent (522 tweets) contained fact-checked false claims or misinformation and at least 27 percent (628 tweets) attacked his perceived enemies. The media was frequently a focal point of Trump’s Twitter activity; he attacked mainstream media outlets, scrutinized specific stories that criticized him, and praised Fox News’ coverage. Democrats were a consistent target as Trump often referred back to the 2016 election, attacked congressional investigations of his campaign’s connections to Russia, and complained that Democrats in Congress were “obstructing” his agenda.
Here is a breakdown of these patterns of misinformation he pushed, who he attacked most in his first year as president of the United States, and who Trump mentioned or retweeted the most.
Top 5 false narratives tweeted by Trump
Trump frequently pushed misinformation throughout the year, largely around five main narratives:
1. In 248 tweets, Trump attacked the credibility of mainstream media outlets. Trump’s campaign against mainstream media took various forms: He called outlets “dishonest,” smeared the press as the “fake news media” when they reported on stories he didn’t like, questioned polls that had unfavorable results, and claimed specific reports or stories were false without evidence -- almost all of which have held up under scrutiny.
2. In 92 tweets, Trump claimed the 2016 election was rigged against him. Trump repeatedly claimed that outside forces had worked in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the election. In the first year of his presidency, Trump tweeted that the news media and social media had a pro-Clinton bias, that the FBI and DOJ “exonerated” Clinton during the investigation of her emails as a political favor, that Clinton colluded with Russia, that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump’s campaign, that Obama did not investigate Russian election interference because he did not want to negatively impact Clinton's chances of winning, and that millions of fraudulent votes were cast. There is no evidence to support any of these claims.
3. In 70 tweets, Trump pushed misinformation about immigrants and immigration. Trump repeatedly pushed misinformation about immigration to associate immigrants with drugs, human trafficking, and violent crime in the U.S. His tweets have made false, xenophobic claims regarding policy and legal actions throughout the year, such as claiming that sanctuary city policies drive up crime rates and that court actions blocking his travel ban would lead to more violence in the U.S. His tweets about “chain migration” conjured inaccurate images of an unbridled flow of unvetted immigrants into the country. He also falsely blamed Obama-era immigration policies for the growth of gangs. Trump has also smeared existing immigration programs like the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, understating its vetting and application process in order to paint the program as a threat to national security.
4. In 64 tweets, Trump claimed that news stories about Russian interference in U.S. elections and that investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians are part of a “hoax” and “witch hunt” against him. In most of these tweets, Trump accused Democrats of peddling what he claimed was a false narrative through the mainstream media and in Congress as an excuse for losing the 2016 election. He also frequently claimed that news reports about the investigation and about election interference were part of an effort by Democrats and the mainstream media to undermine his presidential achievements. Attacks like these against news coverage of Russian election interference were part of Politifact’s 2017 Lie of the Year.
5. In 34 tweets, Trump claimed that Obamacare was dead and that instability in the market was the Democrats’ fault. Trump’s misinformation on the state of Obamacare took different forms throughout the year, beginning with misleading claims about premiums, false statements that Obamacare was in a “death spiral,” and finally blaming Democrats for the instability of the insurance market after Trump ended cost sharing reduction payments.
Trump used his tweets to attack and disparage others 628 times.
Trump attacked mainstream media as a whole 141 times. Trump often referred to mainstream media collectively as “fake news,” “fake news media,” and “dishonest media.” The five outlets he targeted most frequently were The New York Times (40 tweets), CNN (33 tweets), NBC (24 tweets), The Washington Post (16 tweets), and ABC (14 tweets). Some of Trump’s attacks on these media outlets and the “fake news media” were also in conjunction with praise of Fox News Channel and specific Fox programs like Fox & Friends.
Trump attacked these five individuals by name most frequently: Hillary Clinton (50 tweets), Barack Obama (27 tweets), James Comey (18 tweets), Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (13 tweets), and Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (12 tweets). These attacks -- except for those about Corker -- were generally linked to the 2016 election and attempts to discredit Mueller’s investigation.
Top Twitter accounts mentioned and retweeted by Trump
In his first year of presidency, Trump most frequently retweeted and mentioned the Twitter handle of Fox News’ morning show, Fox & Friends (@foxandfriends). His second most retweeted handle was his own (21 retweets). Trump retweeted Fox Business, Fox News, the two networks’ programs, and various Fox personalities more times (88 retweets) than members of his administration and government departments combined (71 retweets), excluding times he retweeted his own handle (21 retweets). Trump also retweeted unverified handles that don't belong to a public figure or entity (33 retweets) almost three times as often as he retweeted elected Republican officials (12 retweets).