WASHINGTON ― White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lashed out at reporters on Monday in response to multiple high-profile corrections to news stories this month, falsely claiming that journalistic outlets do not regularly take responsibility for mistakes and intentionally publish inaccurate information.
Meanwhile President Donald Trump and White House officials ― including Sanders ― frequently put out dubious claims or fail to correct themselves when proven false.
“When journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them,” she said at the White House press briefing. “A lot of times you don’t. There’s a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly.”
“You can’t say that it’s an honest mistake, when you are purposely putting out information that you know to be false,” she continued, saying that “there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.”
But CNN corrected its story about the Trump campaign’s access to documents hacked by Wikileaks. And ABC News suspended veteran investigative reporter Brian Ross for his erroneous report about contacts by the Trump campaign with Russian officials, apologizing that it “had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process.”
Over the weekend, Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel deleted and apologized for an inaccurate tweet about the crowd size at Trump’s Friday night rally in Florida.
Trump, in response, called on the Post to fire Weigel.
While frequently attacking and lecturing reporters about accuracy and fairness — and using his favorite moniker “fake news” for stories critical of him ― Trump and White House officials have a tenuous relationship with the truth.
Last month, Trump promoted several Islamophobic videos from a British far-right activist with a history of disseminating false information. Responding to questions about the veracity of the videos, Sanders told reporters that was not the issue because “the threat” posed by Islamic extremists “is real.”
At a June White House press briefing, Sanders instructed reporters to watch a sting video from Project Veritas, the organization run by the right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe, known for deceptively editing his materials.
“Whether it’s accurate or not I don’t know,” she said, before urging “everybody in this room, and frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it.”
Trump has an extensive history of stoking conspiracy theories without evidence, from claiming that millions of people voted illegally in last year’s election, to asserting that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the Sept. 11 attacks, to questioning the authenticity of his predecessor Barack Obama’s birth certificate, among many, many others.
In July, The New York Times published an account “of nearly every outright lie” Trump had told since his Jan. 20 inauguration. The list was lengthy.