There’s no factual problem with that headline, nor with any of the other facts cited in the piece. The issue is proximity, both physical and thematic.
In the spring, President Trump announced the donation of his first-quarter presidential salary to the National Park Service, which would decide on its own how to spend the money. On July 5, NPS announced that the Trump donation, coupled with other gifts — $263,545 in all — would fund restoration of the historic Newcomer House on the Antietam battlefield, as well as “underwrite” replacement of rail fencing along Hagerstown Turnpike. There the story seemed to end.
Then came Charlottesville in mid-August, with its KKK and neo-Nazi regiments, not to mention a debate over the merits of monuments to Confederate figures. Trump tweeted his views on the topic:
Those proceedings furnished a fresh angle for Trump’s donation to NPS. Moyer’s Aug. 30 piece thrusts a statue of Robert E. Lee into the heart of the Antietam-restoration story: “Work is scheduled to begin next summer on property that includes a 24-foot statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee astride his horse, Traveller. The statue, built by a Confederate enthusiast in 2003, sits on a bluff about 250 feet from the Newcomer House that will benefit from Trump’s donation.”
As the story makes clear, none of the money donated by Trump will go to the statue. Nor did Trump steer the money to the house-near-the-statue; that was the decision of NPS. Though a Maryland congressman called for removal of the statue after the Charlottesville clashes, the question remains: Why speak of the Robert E. Lee statue and Trump’s donation in the same breath? As far as we can tell, there are no protesters raising the issue, for quite good reasons. Impetus for clumping them together appears to reside exclusively within the newspaper.
Mike Semel, the top Metro editor for The Post, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “Given that the Civil War was back in the news, we decided to try to look at where the money was going. We wrote factually about where the money was going — and the fact that the statue was a stone’s throw from the house we found interesting.” Semel notes that the article prominently presents the critical facts about the president’s non-involvement in the statue. “There wasn’t any attempt at gotcha, there wasn’t any tone of gotcha. We were just pointing out something that we thought was interesting after Charlottesville.”
Interesting doesn’t always equal newsworthy. Now for the full context of Swift’s statement, via Moyer’s piece: “She said funds used to benefit the historic home adjacent to the statue should not be interpreted as a provocation of those who criticize Confederate imagery, calling any attempt to connect them ‘absolutely ridiculous.'”