False NBC News Story About Trump Supreme Court Pick Still Spreading On Social Media
A sensational story tweeted early Tuesday morning by multiple reporters with NBC News are the latest example critics have to demonstrate how the national mainstream media is furthering the distrust of millions of Americans.
For more than two years, Conservative critics (most of whom opposed President Trump during the Republican Primaries in 2016) have chronicled how reporters, producers, etc. push a sensational story they think will undermine or even bring down Trump, only to discover later that the story was rumor, unsubstantiated, and/or completely incorrect.
It works like this. A sensational story, or "scoop" that creates outrage against Trump, Republicans, a Conservative media member, or activist is posted on Twitter by someone who works for a major national news media organization. The post spreads quickly through social media only to later clarified as a rumor, mostly false, or completely false. In some cases, like the photo of children in cages posted last month by former Obama Senior Advisor Ben Rhodes, it is a post that is widely shared by members of major media outlets to the same effect.
In virtually every case, the original story is shared potentially to millions of people, while the correction is shared to approximately 100 people. Once the correction is made, the incorrect story continues to be shared throughout social media as fact for a long period of time.
The latest example of this happened early Tuesday morning, hours after President Trump announced Monday night that Federal Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his nominee to fill the soon-to-be vacated seat on the U.S. Supreme Court which will be left by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Several NBC News reporters posted that a "source familiar" told the network that Kavanaugh's nomination was the result of negotiations between the administration and retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. The tweets stated that Kennedy agreed to retire only when Trump assured him that Kavanaugh would be the nominee.
Geoff Bennett, a White House Correspondent with NBC, appears to have tweeted the first claim. Within 6 hours it had been retweeted, or shared by other Twitter users, more than 10,000 times.
Bennett's tweet was shared by political opponents of Trump and Conservatives, including a former Obama Senior Advisor, the President of a major national Progressive organization, a CNN political analyst, a prominent Liberal political commentator, etc. Many of these opponents have hundreds of thousands of people following them on Twitter, at least one has more than a million and a half followers.
The shares included calls for significant political action including blocking Kavanaugh's nomination until "we get to the bottom of this", holding hearings to possibly reverse recent Supreme Court decisions, to pushing for term limits on the Supreme Court.
However, one of the NBC reporters who posted the claim that Justice Kennedy negotiated his seat for Kavanaugh then added that the story may not be what it seems.
NBC Capitol Hill Reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell posted that the story was, "from one source and dont (sic) have any info on whether potus [President of the United States] talked to kennedy about a possible replacement."
Stephen Miller, a FOX News web contributor who has worked with National Review and Independent Journal Review, is one of those critics who has been following the trend.
The Kennedy story NBC reported on Tuesday is just the latest example of MSM journalists using social media to post a story that generates a lot of shares, page hits, and spreads outrage only to later reveal in a "correction" that the story was in reality, mostly or completely false. The "correction" or "clarification" gets significantly fewer shares and clicks hours after the political damage is inflicted.
Miller, a Conservative who has not been a Trump supporter, is one of few media critics who have warned that the continuing practice is damaging Americans' trust of the national news media. He followed the reporting in real time Tuesday morning, providing commentary along the way.
Miller and others have maintained that while the mainstream media pursues immediate clicks and social media shares over verified and substantiated reporting, people will no longer know what to believe, especially when the falsehoods are reported by news organizations that have been well respected for decades. This creates a significant problem in effectively holding people in power accountable.
Meanwhile, as if on cue, Caldwell deleted the original tweet a few hours after the original post and tweeted out a correction of sorts. saying there were no "months of negotiations", and that Justice Kennedy had actually just given President Trump a list of "acceptable replacements". Caldwell posted that the original story "implies a transactional nature":
As of Tuesday afternoon, Bennett had not deleted his original tweet, which had been retweeted more than 15,000 times. He did post, "an important update and clarification" which was retweeted 62 times. Even though a "correction" and "clarification" had been made, Bennett's original post continued to be shared and retweeted as if it were a fact that Justice Kennedy made a deal with President Trump for his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tuesday afternoon, the outrage that the false story generated was still circulating
CNN Political Analyst Norm Eisen used it to question the integrity of the recent Supreme Court rulings, most notably upholding President Trump's Executive Order limiting travel into the U.S. from certain countries. He called for hearings to investigate. Eisen has more than 165,000 followers. He was retweeted nearly 7,000 times.
The popular political analyst who founded Vox.com and is revered by many Liberals, Ezra Klein used the claim to push the argument that Supreme Court justices should have term limits. Ezra Klein has more than 2.5 million followers. He was retweeted more than 2,000 times.
David Corn, the Washington D.C. Bureau Chief for Mother Jones who is a regular MSNBC contributor wrote, "all of his [Justice Kennedy] decisions should be called into question." Corn has more than 640,000 followers. He was retweeted more than 2,000 times.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, none of the above tweets had been deleted.
While Eisen did post that NBC acknowledged that the story was false, he still pushed for hearings to investigate. Eisen wrote, "still raises conflict questions & issues--must be probed in hearings."
Klein and Corn issued no corrections. All three (and many others who shared the story with added outrage) included the caveat "if true" in their posts.
National Review Online Contributor Jeff Blehar joined Miller in not only criticizing what happened, but that there was no accountability or disciplinary action undertaken by NBC for reporting what amounted to a rumor.
He wrote, "how does this not avoid professional discipline, especially since the lie has now become a commonplace and comparatively few will ever see retraction?" Blehar added, "Are there professional standards, the violation of which merit formal discipline, in the mainstream media, or are there not? Fundamental question for NBC right now."
James Hasson, an Army Veteran of Afghanistan who is a contributor with The Federalist wrote that despite there being no evidence, the claim is now "mainstream". Miller, Blehar, Hasson, and several others once again pointed out that the trust in the national media is at record lows, and the Kennedy-Trump story is just the latest example.