In one of the most egregious cases of journalistic deception in recent memory, Reuters has spun Pope Francis to literally say the opposite of what he said regarding President Trump and immigration.
Veteran pope-spinner Phil Pullella, who famously lured Francis into calling Trump a non-Christian in 2016, was back to his old tricks, trying futilely to get the pope to criticize the U.S. president. Having failed to do so, Reuters simply went with the story anyway, carefully selecting which papal quotations to insert in the story and which to omit to back up their pre-conceived narrative.
Pullella was granted an exclusive, two-hour interview with the pontiff at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, during which he asked the pope a variety of questions regarding China, Vatican reforms, sex abuse, women in the Church, immigration, populism, and President Trump.
In the central story from the interview, the Reuters piece bore the title “Exclusive: Pope criticizes Trump administration policy on migrant family separation.” Apparently, Reuters had already prepared its script ahead of the interview, because that is not what the pope did or said. In fact, Francis carefully avoided criticizing the president, despite his interviewer’s efforts to lead him into doing so.
Pullella asked the pope how he evaluates the work of President Trump, particularly regarding his decisions to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord and to move “backward” in relations with Cuba.
While expressing his disappointment, Francis gave the president the benefit of the doubt, noting that he must have reasons for doing what he did.
“Regarding Cuba I was saddened because it was a good step forward,” the pope responded, “but I don’t want to judge because to make such a decision he must have had his reasons.”
“Yes, President Trump’s decision on Paris pained me somewhat because humanity’s future is at stake,” he said. “But he has at times made it known that he will reconsider it, and I hope he will rethink the Paris accords well.”
The pope then added an important line that he would repeat several times:
“Concerning my opinion on other things, I stand with the bishops and follow their lead. Not to wash my hands but because I do not know the issues there very well. The bishops know and I stand behind their declarations.”
Pullella then moved into the central issue, asking the pope what he thinks of “the current situation where in recent months some 2000 minors have been separated from their families, from their parents, at the Mexican border.”
The pope carefully sidestepped the question, refusing to be baited into criticizing Trump.
The pope’s textual answer was: “I stand by the bishops. Let it be clear that in these things I respect the bishops.” In this answer, the pope repeated what he has said in numerous similar circumstances where he believes the local church is better suited to evaluate local problems than Rome is.
Not content with this answer, Pullella pressed harder, reminding the pope that he has “always been concerned with immigration and separation from families.”
Francis refused to be taken in, and reiterated for the third time that he defers to the bishops “who have worked hard on the question.”
The pope then spontaneously added a key line that Reuters chose to omit completely in its recounting of the interview.
“But during the Obama years I celebrated Mass at Ciudad Juárez while on the other side of the border 50 bishops concelebrated and in the stadium there were many people. The problem already existed there, it is not just Trump’s but goes back to previous administrations,” the pope said.
Summing up: the pope said that regarding the current administration’s position on immigration he prefers to defer to the judgment of local bishops but he is aware that the problem was not caused by Trump but predates him.
This is not the story Reuters published.
Reuters made the mistake of sending a group of journalists a large section of the original Italian transcript of the interview ahead of publication, which allowed Breitbart News to break the story of the incongruency between what Reuters published and what the pope actually said.
Oddly, despite having access to the original Italian, most mainstream media outlets echoed the Reuters version of the story, not mentioning the pope’s efforts to contextualize Trump’s responsibility in the U.S. immigration crisis.
To date, Reuters has published at least three different articles on the interview with the pope, but the agency has failed to include the pope’s words on the immigration crisis predating Trump and has elected not to publish the full transcript to allow people to read for themselves what the pope actually said.
If anyone still had doubts as to why people universally distrust the mainstream media, including once prestigious news agencies, this umpteenth example of fake news should serve to allay them.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome