Folks in the NBC News extended family should know a bit better. They’re the ones, after all, who have taken noteworthy steps in recent weeks to protect the U.S. public from predictably false and irresponsible utterances. The company’s cable-news operation, MSNBC, has admirably refrained from taking live feeds from a Trump speech on immigration and a briefing by White House press Secretary Sarah Sanders -- both junk-food intubations for the civic digestive tract.
And yet the official NBC News Twitter account appears to be ignorant of the last 3½ years of Trump-centric politics:
It’s true that President Trump declared that filings on Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III cleared him:
It’s also true that Trump was lying. The Friday filings by Mueller, in proceedings related to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, contain revelations that hack away at the mantra of Trump and his backers — namely, that the long-running Mueller investigation has produced no evidence of Trump campaign collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential race. In its Cohen filing, the Mueller team alleges that “Cohen received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’ ” As for the Manafort filing, CNN summarizes: “In a heavily redacted document, Mueller also said Manafort lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller has said Kilimnik has ties to the Russian military intelligence unit accused of hacking the Democrats, and they’ve previously outlined how the two men may have worked together to tamper with witnesses following Manafort’s arrest last year.”
In light of those considerations, people couldn’t abide any qualification-free recitation of Trump’s tweet that he’d been cleared. Here’s a sampling of the backlash:
And so on. As of approximately 11 a.m. Saturday, the NBC News tweet had registered more than 4,700 replies — many of them very angry — against 443 retweets and 1,300 likes. That’s what social-media types call an unfavorable ratio. In (some) deference to NBC News, we acknowledge the story promoted and previewed in the tweet does a nice job of laying out the day’s events and their actual implications for Trump.
The Associated Press took a comparable clobbering over this tweet, which committed the same journalistic offense as the one from NBC News:
AP thought better of the tweet after Twitter broadcast its wide-ranging infirmities:
AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton told the Erik Wemple Blog in an email: “It is AP policy even in short headlines and tweets to be accurate and balanced and provide context when needed.” Good thinking.
Look: There was a time when news organizations could use their Twitter feeds for incrementalism; when using one tweet to declare the position of one party and a subsequent tweet to declare the position of the other party was an ethical and informative way to proceed; when presidents merely stretched the truth, instead of strangling it. That time has passed.
Trump has 56 million followers on his Twitter account, a crowd that he delights in deceiving. News organizations have an obligation not to participate in the fraud by extending the bilious reach of @realdonaldtrump.