President Trump isn’t wrong when he says the political press has done a poor job covering his administration. He also isn’t wrong to characterize much of last year's reporting and commentary as hot garbage.
But the president’s claim that reporters have been using fake sources is a different kind of media criticism. It’s an extremely serious charge, and one that doesn’t appear to have any basis in reality.
The Failing New York Times has a new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. Congratulations! Here is a last chance for the Times to fulfill the vision of its Founder, Adolph Ochs, “to give the news impartially, without fear or FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.” Get...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
....impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all of your phony and non-existent “sources,” and treat the President of the United States FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won’t have to write an apology to your readers for a job poorly done! GL— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
Perhaps more astonishing than the claim itself is the fact that this isn't even the first time that the president has accused major media reporters of using made-up sources.
From Dec. 30:
I use Social Media not because I like to, but because it is the only way to fight a VERY dishonest and unfair “press,” now often referred to as Fake News Media. Phony and non-existent “sources” are being used more often than ever. Many stories & reports a pure fiction!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
From Dec. 19:
A story in the @washingtonpost that I was close to “rescinding” the nomination of Justice Gorsuch prior to confirmation is FAKE NEWS. I never even wavered and am very proud of him and the job he is doing as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The unnamed sources don’t exist!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2017
From July 16:
And as far back as August 2016:
A shocking number of political news stories fell apart last year. That's a fact. In nearly every case, the botched story relied entirely on anonymous sources. The president is correct when he complains that much of the unflattering coverage of his administration has hinged on the say-so of mysterious nameless officials.
But there’s nothing to back Trump's claim that the bungled news coverage has been the product of reporters concocting sources and claims from thin-air. If that were true, it’d be a major scandal. It'd be like if someone combined infamous fabulists Stephen Glass, Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair, and Jonah Lehrer into one mega media misfire of epic proportions.
But there just isn't any evidence to prove Trump's allegation.
The reporting has been sloppy, misleading, and even dishonest. But straight-up fabricated? Show your homework. It’s one thing to engage in an extended and careless game of telephone, which many reporters and pundits did last year. It’s another thing entirely to make up imaginary friends, which the president keeps claiming without any proof.