Wall Street Journal reporters Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz saw their reporting submitted to high-profile fact-checking on Wednesday, as the Trump administration released a memo of that July 25 conversation between the two heads of state. Reviews from some quarters weren’t favorable:
In the instanalysis on Fox News, host Bret Baier said, “I don’t see eight times Joe Biden being mentioned. I count three, tangentially. So some of the earlier reporting may have been something different.” Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge said, “There are not multiple references, as widely reported, to the former vice president and his son. Based on our count, there’s a key reference and then some follow-on references, so a handful, approximately three.” Later on, host Harris Faulkner referred directly to the Journal’s reporting: “It says that the look into Joe Biden was mentioned eight times, when in fact, the first time you hear Rudy Giuliani’s name on it is from the president of Ukraine and I can only find six instances of anybody’s name, north of a couple of times, and it was Giuliani.”
Also on Fox News, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) said, “I didn’t see Joe Biden’s name mentioned in there eight times."
Well, the Wall Street Journal never made that representation. To repeat, it reported that Trump had urged Zelensky “about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump’s potential 2020 opponent.” So how does that claim compare with the “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation”?
As ABC News reports in a detailed breakdown of the document, there are eight distinct Trump requests for a favor/assistance with an investigation. Not all of them reference Giuliani by name, but the message is clear through repetition: Get with Rudy on this!
A Wall Street Journal spokesman sent the Erik Wemple Blog this note: “The call record released today is not a word-by-word transcript, and while we do not know the totality of the conversation, this record clearly shows multiple references to Mr. Giuliani and a proposed investigation, which supports our earlier reporting.”
Bolding added to highlight a key point. Fine print on the document reads, “A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.” There are ellipses in the document that could be swallowing relevant portions of the presidential conversation. They also could be swallowing meandering Trump gibberish that defies transcription, even description.
Whatever the case, the reporting of the Journal — and The Post, as well — was “basically on target,” concluded Fox News media correspondent Howard Kurtz.
Correct. In his public comments regarding this scandal, Trump has complained about “fake news” and “corrupt reporting.” In a remarkable twist of events, however, Trump himself authorized the release of a “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” that corroborated this “fake news.” Thanks for confirming, Mr. President.