President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that he intends to issue an executive order that would end birthright citizenship. Legal analysts wondered if the President has the authority to overturn centuries of legal precedent. Nevertheless, many media outlets ran with the story uncritically—as well as reporting Donald Trump's false claim that America is the only country in the world that automatically bestows citizenship to babies born on US land.
Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin chided both the right-wing Fox News and the mainstream media more generally for playing into Trump's hands, facilitating his efforts to gin up his base ahead of the midterms.
She starts by criticizing the Washington-based Axios, which ran with the initial "scoop."
"Unfortunately, Axios raced to post its report without first fact-checking the president. Its initial report restated his “plan” (as if he was presenting it and as if it was a serious policy move) and failed to rebut his false assertion that we are the only country with such a system" she writes.
"Indeed, Axios had introduced the topic, unprompted, and Trump — as he often does — was vaguely amenable. Axios then blasted out the headline as if this was a concrete plan. Other outlets followed, repeating Trump’s misstatement of fact."
The story went viral before it was ever fact-checked, she points out—and it reveals a deeper problem in the dynamics between the president and the media.
"This is one example of the symbiotic relationship between Trump and headline-hungry media," she writes. 'What is notable about this episode is not that this is a “scoop” on what Trump planned, but that in the closing days of the midterm campaign, he is desperate to stir up his base — just as he has been doing in hyping the caravan, which remains hundreds of miles from our border."
Serving as a mouthpiece for the President is what Fox News is for, Rubin reminds readers. But on fraught issues like the refugee caravan apparently on its way to the Southwest border, Rubin says other media outlets are also spreading dangerous misinformation.
"Speaking of the caravan, one expects Fox News to exaggerate and outright misrepresent the situation (e.g. suggesting the migrants carry diseases, have been infiltrated by Middle Easterners, financed by Jewish billionaire George Soros), but the mainstream media is not blameless in helping Trump perpetrate his phony crisis," she writes.
Ultimately, everyone in the media must do better in fulfilling their duty to inform the public with accurate, contextualized information.
"Covering Trump is no easy task," she concludes. "All of us need to do better."