Another day, another sloppy and misleading mini news cycle. Dana Shell Smith, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Qatar since 2014, is set to retire later this year.
"This month, I end my 3 years as US Ambassador to #Qatar. It has been the greatest honor of my life and I'll miss this great country," she announced Tuesday on social media.
U.S. ambassadors serve an average of three years before being replaced, as Smith's Tuesday note suggested. They can stay on longer, but they must specifically be asked to do so. Smith was already on her way out prior to saying so on social media, and the timetable for her exit is 100 percent normal.
However, because her announcement comes not long after President Trump disparaged Qatar on social media, accusing it of aiding and abetting terrorists, media wasted no time speculating about the circumstances surrounding her retirement.
"The US ambassador to Qatar said Tuesday she is leaving her post in Doha, in the midst of the worst diplomatic crisis involving America's Gulf allies in years," the Economic Times reported in an article titled, "US envoy to Qatar to step down in midst of crisis."
The story added, "Shell Smith did not say why she was stepping down, if she was staying within the diplomatic service or who would replace her."
The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock noted elsewhere, "Ambassador who clashed with Trump over Qatar policy is leaving."
CNBC's John Harwood tweeted, "US Ambassador to Qatar has resigned days after Trump renewed attacking the country, which undercut State Dept attempt to calm tensions."
US Ambassador to Qatar has resigned days after Trump renewed attacking the country, which undercut State Dept attempt to calm tensions— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) June 13, 2017
It's true: Smith's retirement announcement comes soon after the president attacked the small Middle Eastern country on social media.
"During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!" Trump tweeted on June 6.
"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar," he added. "Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"
This is where the connections between Trump's tweets and Smith's retirement begin and end. Linking the two events together, and suggesting the former is the cause for the latter, is deeply misleading and relies on information that no one has yet produced.
But lack of information has never stopped social media from speculating. Verified users on Twitter pounced on Hardwood's remarks Tuesday, and ran with the storyline that Trump's unscripted social media musings forced out an honorable and competent career diplomat:
When Kushner testifies under oath to Senate needs to be asked about "deals" he/Trump cut w/the Saudis. Impossible to ignore any longer. https://t.co/cI9EzFL9Yi— Simon Rosenberg (@SimonWDC) June 13, 2017
Amazingly enough, an actual former U.S. ambassador got in on the action, tweeting:
Trump is not making us safer when his reckless ad-libbing drives out an experienced, patriotic Foreign Service Officer like @AmbDana S Smith https://t.co/RlpnKDmzlh— Andrew Schapiro (@AndySchapiro) June 13, 2017
He should know better.