An amazing thing happened this week.
News outlets that President Trump has branded “fake news” reported Trump agreed in principle to grant long-term legal status to DACA recipients — a big item on Democrats' wish list — without securing funding for a Southern border wall in return. Trump said the media and the Democrats who say they negotiated with him were mischaracterizing the situation.
Given a choice of whom to believe, reliably pro-Trump commentators, such as Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter and Mike Cernovich chose the media, Charles E. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi over the president.
Mark it down: This is the week that Trump's “fake news” attack lost its power.
In the past, Trump's boosters would have rushed to assure his supporters that the president is totally committed to the wall and claimed that the media are trying to drive a wedge between Trump and his base by manufacturing a narrative about supposed flimsiness.
That was Breitbart News's contention last month, when The Washington Post published the transcript of a telephone conversation between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in which Trump said the wall is “the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important.”
“Very fake news: Trump didn't say the wall wasn't important,” read a Breitbart headline. The accompanying article asserted that “instead, the new president of the United States (POTUS) shows an indefatigable commitment to his 'Make America Great Again' agenda — which included toughness on immigration, crime, trade and the border wall.”
That was some astounding spin. Now, even Breitbart is echoing the mainstream media and reporting that Trump is, indeed, waffling on the wall.
About 4 p.m. Thursday, Trump's reelection campaign sent an email to supporters that was signed by the president.
“Let me set the record straight in the simplest language possible,” he said in the email. “We will build a wall (not a fence) along the Southern border of the United States of America to help stop illegal immigration and keep America safe. Apparently, liberals in Congress and the mainstream media need one more reminder that building the wall is nonnegotiable.”
On Friday afternoon, the Trump campaign sent this text message to supporters:
Notice that Trump didn't deny that funding for the wall is not part of a tentative DACA deal in either message. He merely said that he will build the wall at some point; in fact, he told reporters on Thursday that “the wall will come later.”
Breitbart was not assuaged by the president's words. This is what the site's homepage looked like on Friday:
On Fox News, Carlson led off his Thursday night show with a stinging rejection of Trump's position that allowing hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States does not amount to “amnesty.”
“It would be a massive amnesty,” Carlson said. “It would be the biggest ever granted in American history. This is thrilling news for Democrats and for open-borders advocates everywhere. In return for this concession, the president receives nothing — no reduction in overall immigration totals, no tightened restriction on foreign workers who take jobs from Americans, no E-Verify to prevent illegal immigrants from working under the table, no end to chain migration.
“The president isn't even getting a border wall, though he insisted he will somehow get one later, possibly. … Well, the president seems confident it will all work out in the end, but there's no reason to be optimistic. The fate of DACA recipients is, by far, the best piece of leverage he has or ever will have. If he gives it away for free, none of his other immigration priorities — the priorities he ran on and won the presidency with — will even be considered.”
On Twitter, Coulter fumed that Trump was “easily rolled” by Democratic leaders. Cernovich, an Infowars host, tweeted that it was “insane” for Trump to let DACA recipients stay in the country without demanding money for the border wall.
In a truly head-spinning exchange, Cernovich fired back at a Trump supporter who dismissed a New York Times report by Maggie Haberman as “fake news.”
“Pretty much any Haberman-Trump story is good to go,” Cernovich tweeted. “That's reality.”
You read that right: An Infowars host told a Trump supporter that the New York Times is not fake news.
The Infowars website also highlighted MAGA hat-burning on Friday and questioned Trump's dedication to his “America First” agenda.
None of this means the term “fake news” is dead or that every single Trump booster is calling BS on the president's claim that he is as determined as ever to build the wall.
“There hasn't been a cave yet,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience on Thursday, urging patience, “but it looks like there might be.”
The significance of this week is that Trump can no longer cry “fake news” when the media reports on a broken promise, and count on his boosters to help keep the faith. In a credibility war with the media, Trump's victory is not automatic, even in the eyes of his most ardent admirers.