USA Today Contributes To Mistrust Of Media With Very Interesting Fact Checks

OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

America has lost faith that the mainstream media will tell them the truth. Legacy news organizations simply aren’t trusted anymore. And here’s a prime example of why.

Consider these “fact checks.”

Back in July, social media began circulating images of a Trump campaign shirt and stating that it featured a Nazi symbol, the imperial eagle.

USA Today took it upon themselves to fact check this claim and said,

“Our ruling: true”

The word spread far and wide on social and news media that it was true that a Trump campaign shirt featured Nazi symbology. Later, USA Today posted a “clarification.” Apparently, while they maintained that the claim was true, they said that it was “worth noting, the eagle is a longtime US symbol, too.”

Oh, so it’s maybe not true? Maybe that bit about it being a Nazi symbol is misleading? Missing context, perhaps? Maybe the shirt is actually featuring a longtime American symbol and not a Nazi symbol? While the official story was quietly updated later to “reflect further reporting and analysis,” and the rating was changed to “inconclusive,” the intended damage had already been done. The “True” fact check had shed an unfavorable light on the Trump campaign and fed the narrative that Trump and those who vote for him are racist. Of course the Trump campaign responded with appropriate disgust at the claim:

“This is moronic. In Democrats’ America, Mount Rushmore glorifies white supremacy and the bald eagle with an American flag is a Nazi symbol. They have lost their minds.”

Well, USA Today recently had the opportunity to fact check another controversial image.

“The claim: A photo shows Jen Psaki, Joe Biden’s pick for press secretary, wearing a hammer and sickle hat while posing with officials from Russia.

Our ruling: Missing context.”

Mind you, Jen Psaki herself posted this picture (which she hilariously now claims is “Russian propaganda”), and she is indeed wearing a hat that clearly portrays a hammer and sickle, which symbolizes years of violent dictatorship and slaughter. It has never been a “longtime US symbol, too,” like the controversial eagle that was initially confirmed to be a Nazi symbol. There’s no ambiguity here. In fact, the claim is simply that she is wearing it, which she clearly is. But it was labeled as missing context, which shed a much more favorable light on Jen Psaki and quelled any controversy over a Joe Biden administration pick.

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So what context was missing, exactly? The fact that the hat had been a gift from the Russians. And because the hat was a gift, USA Today said the claim that she was “wearing a hammer and sickle hat” was “missing context,” which is distinctly different from “True” in the fact-checking world.

I mean, the claim is unequivocally and inarguably true because we’re literally able to look right at a picture of her wearing it. It’s true. She was wearing a hat with a hammer and sickle. And a claim that she was wearing a hat with a hammer and sickle should have been rated “true” because it is actually true. But a “missing context” ruling was much better for the Biden administration.

In fact, USA Today went on to write an article making light of the entire controversy by saying that she “wore many hats” during the Obama administration. How sweet of them to mitigate the controversy with a favorable fact check and then follow it up with a punny praise article chaser.

The problem here is that the Trump campaign was not afforded the same consideration and generosity by the same fact-checkers. Their image certainly warranted a “missing context” rating considering that it was, in fact, missing the context that while there are many versions of eagle symbolism throughout history, it is certainly a historic American symbol.

Bottom line:

Two images circulated on social media.

One wrongly being labeled a Nazi symbol when it is actually a longtime US symbol that is being mislabeled.

One rightly being labeled as simply wearing a hat with a longtime symbol of dictatorship and violent slaughter.

One given a damaging and misleading fact check that is then quietly fixed to reflect the truth, but only after the damage had been done.

One given a fact check to mitigate any controversy.

So what was the difference?

The difference: (R)