President Trump spent much of his first morning back in the United States tweeting angrily about “fake news.”
But he has not mentioned one of the better-documented journalistic sins against him during his nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe.
It began, appropriately enough, with a tweet by BBC correspondent James Landale from Saturday's Group of Seven conference:
There were the leaders of Germany, Tunisia and Niger — translation headphones strapped to their heads — listening intently to a speech in Italian.
And there was Trump in the middle, naked-eared, appearing to stare uncomprehendingly at a water bottle.
“Look who has chosen not to hear a translation,” Landale wrote.
His description was almost immediately attacked as fake news. Some pointed out a wire dangling from Trump's ear, and the White House press secretary said the president was simply wearing an earbud.
Landale owned up to his misstatement within two hours — but not before thousands had spread it far and wide. It played into one of Trump critics' favorite stereotypes of the president: self-centered and inattentive.
Trump had, after all, apparently shoved the leader of Montenegro out of the way during a photo op on the trip. And that after reports that U.S. allies had reworked a NATO summit's schedule to suit Trump's short attention span.
So cue countless stories about Trump's fake snub to Italy. “Trump has clearly given up and isn't even using translation headphones,” as Death and Taxes headlined it, for example.
And as Frank Luntz pointed out — no one likes to share a correction.
The whole thing smacked of another infamous fake-news incident, in the early hours of Trump's presidency. A Time magazine reporter failed to spot a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. that has long adorned the Oval Office and falsely reported that Trump got rid of it.
The reporter corrected himself within minutes, and repeatedly, but that didn't stop Trump and his aides from citing it for days afterward — even during the president's Black History Month speech the following month.
But stereotypes — they're tricky things. The “media” that Trump spends so much time attacking is a varied beast, and for every outlet that picked up the fake translation story, another noted the truth.
In this case, Gizmodo's Matt Novak — by no means a Trump champion — wrote a definitive postmortem on ear-gate, proving beyond doubt that the president was wired up.
Novak analyzed multiple photos from the G-7 summit and even found evidence that Trump shared a preference for ear buds with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
In the interest of accuracy, Novak also noted that a few months ago, the White House had admitted that Trump wore no translation device when he nodded along to the Japanese prime minister's speech.