Most U.S. presidents get their briefings from the experts on their staff. Donald Trump gets his information from Fox News. The New York Times reported early this month that Trump watches up to eight hours of cable TV news a day, and Fox News is his absolute favorite. As he guzzles Diet Cokes and scarfs fast food, Trump keeps on eye on the Faux News anchors and pundits who offer him their constant adoration. Everything else he denigrates as fake news, particularly if it offers an unflattering truth.
This would be problematic by any standard, but it’s made all the more insidious by the fact that Fox News is garbage. Studies have found that viewers who watch Fox News aren’t just less informed than other news consumers, but know less than people who don’t watch any news at all. That’s the result of Fox’s endless stream of alternative facts, the very thing that keeps the network in favor with the Trump regime.
Trump often promotes Fox errors and misinformation because they serve his agenda. Here are five examples of Fox lies and misinformation Trump has repeated since his election.
1. When he tweeted Fox News’ lies about his campaign manager’s crimes.
In late October, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort—who made his name doing PR for dictators—was indicted on a dozen charges, including money laundering, conspiracy and tax fraud. Court papers specified that while Manafort’s crimes date back to 2006, the allegations included actions in 2016 and 2017. Fox & Friends quickly got to work spreading the lie that Manafort’s wrongdoing had occurred “many years before he joined Trump.” Fox News talking heads ran with their assigned angle, with Geraldo Rivera tweeting that Manafort’s “corruption predates time w @realDonaldTrump” and contributor Byron York stating Manafort’s “alleged crimes…if they took place, took place years before he joined the Trump campaign.”
Shortly after Fox’s inaccurate reporting, Trump seized on the useful lie and used it in one of his own defensive tweets. “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” Trump wrote in his message, blathering on about “Crooked Hillary & the Dems.”
2. When he repeated Fox News’ false reporting about James Comey.
In their feverish haste to impugn former FBI director Comey, Fox & Friends writers totally misread a report from reputable news outlet the Hill. The source article indicated that of the seven memos Comey wrote detailing his troubling conversations with Trump, four contained classified information. Comey had previously stated, testifying before the Senate, that he shared one memo that did not contain classified information with a friend to leak to press. But a Fox & Friends segment and subsequent tweet claimed Comey had leaked “top secret information” to a friend, a declaration with no relationship to the truth.
“James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media,” Trump tweeted, his obvious source the bad information provided by Fox & Friends. “That is so illegal!”
The following day, after numerous outlets reported on the lie, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy issued a correction—though not an apology—for the error. The Trump correction is definitely on its way any day now….
3. When he was confused by Fox News about the Swedish terror attack that never was.
In their ongoing efforts to demonize Muslims both at home and abroad, Fox News put its spotlight on a documentary linking the increase in violent crime in Sweden with the arrival of brown migrants. (On a not-so-side note, the Guardian cites a Swedish Migration Agency report showing that is totally made-up Islamophobic garbage.) After watching the report on a Friday night, a confused and fact-indifferent Trump told an audience on Saturday that a terror attack had just occurred.
“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this?” Trump lamented to a Florida crowd. “Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.”
He went on to mention the cities of Nice, Paris and Brussels, all of which had experienced terrorist attacks in recent years.
The news shocked no one more than the Swedes, who had no idea what Trump was talking about and quickly recognized that he didn’t, either. “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?” Swedish politician Carl Bildt mockingly asked.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that his “statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.” Of course.
4. When he tweeted falsehoods about President Obama because he misunderstood a Fox News report.
In the early morning of March 7, Fox & Friends quickly cycled through the day’s headlines. Trump’s attention may have been caught by a report that the “Trump administration just killed a former Guantanamo Bay detainee [Yasir al-Silmi] released by Barack Obama…He had been released back in 2009 even though the Department of Defense recommended that he stay behind bars. One hundred twenty-two prisoners released from Gitmo have returned to the battlefield.”
Fox reiterated that announcement in a tweet that again stated “at least 122 former Gitmo detainees have re-engaged in terrorism.” Trump could easily have asked any of the experts in his orbit about a numbers breakdown, but instead he decided to wing it, posting a tweet incorrectly blaming Obama. “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield,” Trump wrote in the Twitter missive. “Just another terrible decision!”
That’s a fairly funny claim from the king of terrible decisions. The Daily Banter gets to the heart of the problem here:
Naturally, Trump leaped to the conclusion that all 122 detainees mentioned in the piece were released by President Obama. They weren’t. In fact, according to the Director of National Intelligence’s website, President Bush released 532 detainees from Guantanamo Bay, and 113 of those former detainees returned to “the battlefield.” Meanwhile, Obama released 161 detainees, with just nine returning to the battlefield. So, no, Obama didn’t release 122 “vicious prisoners” from Gitmo who returned to terrorism. He released 161, but only nine of them rejoined al-Qaeda.
5. When he even retweeted a Fox spelling error of his own words.
While delivering a speech in Poland last summer, Trump declared that “the West was saved with the blood of patriots.”
Fox News aired the speech, but instead of Trump’s actual words, the chyron offered a misquote that read, “POTUS: WEST SAVED BY THE BLOOD OF PATRIARCHS.”
The error itself isn’t that extraordinary. Tickers, chyrons and other onscreen graphics are often written quickly, and mistakes are bound to happen. That, or Fox News believes Trump truly meant to say that bloodthirsty dads, fighting to the death, are the real heroes. Both of these things seem equally likely.
In any case, Trump tweeted the Fox News clip featuring the typo, despite the fact that it contained a total misstatement of his own words.
As another Twitter user noted, footage from just after the speech seemed to show Trump aimlessly moving around the stage with no sense of where to go or what to do. I guess that fits well with not remembering his own speech.