Anti-Trump fervor in the press has birthed many instances of sloppy, shoddy and downright dishonest journalism, but a story this week alleging the president behaved boorishly during a ceremony in Japan is so far the most egregious example of intentionally deceptive reporting since the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met this weekend in Tokyo to discuss trade and the growing threat of a nuclear-capable North Korea.
On Monday, the two visited the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, where they were both given boxes of fish food for the traditional feeding of the palace’s koi fish. The president and the prime minister both spooned in their feed a little at a time. Abe then dumped the rest of his box into the pond. Trump followed suit, spooning in just a little at first, and then dumping out the remnants of his box.
Simple enough stuff. There's no way this gets reported incorrectly, right? Wrong. The simple act of feeding the palace’s koi fish somehow became a fake news event in the U.S. this week, and we have CNN and a handful of others in the press to thank for that.
CNN published a headline Monday morning that read, “Trump feeds fish, winds up pouring entire box of food into koi pond.”
That story included a tweet from CNN reporter Veronica Rocha, who wrote, “President Trump feeds fish with PM Shinzo Abe in Japan, then pours the entire box of food into the koi pond.”
Her note included footage of the ceremony — except that the clip she shared was edited so that it showed only Trump dumping out his fish food. CNN’s main Twitter account also circulated the edited video clip.
CNN was given an assist in getting this bogus story rolling by Bloomberg White House correspondent Justin Sink, who tweeted that Trump and Abe were “spooning fish food into the pond” when the U.S. president, “decided to just dump the whole box in for the fish.”
Things took off from there, as newsrooms rushed to report that Trump had made a great fool of himself in front of the Japanese.
“President Trump was criticized for throwing an entire box of fish food into a koi pond during his visit to Japan,” read a New York Daily News headline.
The Guardian did the most Guardian thing ever, publishing a story that warned overfeeding fish is extremely dangerous for their health.
“White House reporters, keen perhaps to pick up on a Trump gaffe, captured the moment when he upended his box on their smartphones and tweeted evidence of his questionable grasp of fish keeping,” the story read. “Some speculated that a poor palace employee would be dispatched to the scene to clean up the mess as soon as the two leaders disappeared inside.”
Journalist and pundit Twitter was, of course, on top of this moronic koi fabrication:
President Trump empties his fish food container while feeding koi with Prime Minister Abe at Akasaka Palace (quite a photo by @andyharnik) pic.twitter.com/kuh1TwrGMC— Monica Alba (@albamonica) November 6, 2017
Trump spoon feeds koi fish at Akasaka Palace. He ended up just dumping the whole box of fish food into the pond, per @justinsink at scene. pic.twitter.com/ICAxXMlMsA— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) November 6, 2017
KellyAnne: No Donald Trump didn't pour out all the koi food when he was told to sprinkle it 1-by-1. There was a gust of wind from Hillary pic.twitter.com/bFhVsAm0JA— teresa lo (@teresalo_tweets) November 6, 2017
And so on.
Luckily, full video of the event eventually circulated online Monday morning, and the more honest reporters were quick to note that the original narrative spread by CNN and others was deeply misleading. Of course, we could've avoided this entire episode from the beginning if certain members of the press cared more about reporting the facts than dunking on an administration they don't like.
This stupid story is particularly rich considering certain CNN reporters talk a big game about being truth-tellers and guardians of fact over fiction. These same people also seem awfully upset whenever the president or anyone else in this administration refers to the cable network as "fake news."
Here's an idea: If you want to punch back on the president’s preferred pejorative for the press, maybe don’t spread actual fake news.