“Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that
cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be ‘fake
news,’” says Gallup-Knight Foundation Survey, 2018.
President Donald Trump loves to talk about fake news,
claiming that any story putting him in a negative light is fake, no matter how
accurate. Before we can discuss “fake news,” we should define our terms,
clarifying the difference between fake news and differences of interpretation.
Fake news means a story is totally made up with no basis in
fact. A difference of interpretation means analyzing an actual event in
different ways; that’s not fake news.
In August 2017, a rally called “Unite the Right” was held in
Charlottesville, Va. The rally was organized and sponsored by white
supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK members, and other far-right groups. On Aug. 11,
2017, these white supremacists marched, carrying tiki torches and weapons,
chanting “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” a Nazi slogan. On
Aug. 12, 2017, James Fields Jr., a white supremacist who had marched the night
before, drove his car into a crowd of protestors, murdering a young woman,
Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others.
On Aug. 15, in response to this violence, Trump said there
were “very fine people on both sides.” Many took this to be a defense of the
white supremacists. A relative of mine insisted that any interpretation
claiming Trump was calling white supremacists “fine people” is fake news, that
Trump was referring only to those people objecting to the removal of a
The facts are that white supremacists organized the rally,
they marched and chanted, and one of them murdered a young woman. When Trump
made his comment about “fine people,” he didn’t distinguish between those who
wanted the statue preserved and those pushing a racist agenda. Whatever Trump
intended, concluding that he meant the white supremacists were fine people is a
difference in interpretation, not a fake news story.
A prime example of a fake news story is the allegation that
President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. This story started in
2004 and picked up steam in 2008. Originally, both political parties had
questions, but after Obama released his short form birth certificate, the only
people continuing the accusation were right-wing “birthers.” Donald Trump
became a leader of the birthers, even claiming falsely that he’d sent
investigators to look into the issue.
Overwhelming evidence proves Obama was born in Hawaii, part
of America. Some irrefutable facts are that the governor of Hawaii in 2008,
Linda Lingle, was a Republican. She’d been Republican State Party chair from
1999 to 2002. She was elected governor in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. She
spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention, praising John McCain, saying
she was “the same breed as McCain and Palin.”
Hawaii was being bombarded in 2008 with requests to see
Obama’s birth certificate. Gov. Lingle had full access to Hawaii’s state
records. If she had publicly announced that Obama’s birth certificate was a
fake, that would have ended Obama’s candidacy. Instead, she publicly verified
that the birth certificate is genuine. Despite these facts, birthers are still
spreading this fake story, a story with no factual basis, the kind
right-wingers seem to love.
Another fake story was the claim that Hillary Clinton was
running a devil worship and child sex trafficking ring out of a Washington,
D.C., pizzeria. Sadly, one man who believed this story went to the restaurant
with a rifle, believing he was rescuing the children. This malicious lie could
have ended in tragedy; fortunately, no one was hurt.
It would take a book to list the endless fake stories being
spread by right-wingers. These stories are not different interpretations of
actual events. They are flat-out lies.
Some Trump followers are so lost, they are unable to tell
fact from fiction if any part of a story disparages Trump. They also relish the
lies Trump tells about his perceived enemies. But for those who care about
truth and basic American values, please remember: Fake news can be extremely
dangerous and does none of us any good.
During this election season, we will be flooded with fake
news stories. Those who spread these stories are harming those who may believe
them. If a position is valid, it won’t need lies to support it. We should be
basing our decisions and our country’s future on facts. For anyone claiming to
be a patriot, that shouldn’t be a tough decision.
Jeanette Strong is a Nevada Press Association award-winning
columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.