The “conservative” anti-Trump publication The Weekly Standard published a “fact check” on a viral photo of CNN’s Anderson Cooper that conflated a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. mocking Cooper, with false information being spread by trolls in a misleading manner.
The Weekly Standard‘s “fact checking” is now being used by Facebook, so the publication’s decision to push misleading information into such a piece raises questions about whether it can be trusted to be a fair arbiter of truth when it comes to one of the most powerful platforms on the Internet—and highlights just how difficult it is for companies like Facebook to police content.
TWS‘s article focuses on an image that went viral recently, showing CNN’s Anderson Cooper standing in deep water while his camera crew, just feet away, is in much lower water. The image is from Hurricane Ike in 2008, not from the recent Hurricane Florence.
Cooper claimed that the shot was set up that way to showcase how the flood waters were deeper in some areas than others.
Many people spread the photo around the Internet over the weekend, and some falsely claimed that the photo was from Hurricane Florence.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a photo of Cooper standing in the water over the weekend writing, “It’s a shame that CNN’s ratings are down 41%. What’s worse is there’s a simple solution that they refuse to accept. Stop Lying to try to make realDonaldTrump look bad.”
Trump Jr. then linked to an article from Breitbart News reporting on CNN posting a serious drop in ratings from last year in the September 3-9 week.
It’s a shame that CNN’s ratings are down 41%. What’s worse is there’s a simple solution that they refuse to accept. Stop Lying to try to make @realDonaldTrump look bad. https://t.co/O3XyWchsJh pic.twitter.com/BCUCxKnOvO
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 16, 2018
The tweet never claims that the image of Cooper came from Hurricane Florence. However, when TWS did their “fact check” they failed to distinguish the fact that some people on social media were making false claims about it from Trump Jr.’s tweet, which never claims the photo came from Florence.
The photos come from Cooper’s coverage of Hurricane Ike in 2008, in which he notes that “the rescue personnel, the vehicles coming through this water are able to drive on part of the road here, but just off to the side of the road the water just gets incredibly deep.” During this, the camera shows rescue vehicles driving on the road where the camera man is, correctly noting the different depths in each location. “If I step back even a few more feet,” Cooper continued, “I’d basically be up to my neck in water.”
In sharing these photos with captions suggesting that CNN was lying to viewers (as Donald Trump Jr. did), social media users have ironically become purveyors of misinformation themselves.
This is misleading–the first part of the excerpt debunks claims that the photo was taken during coverage of Florence, then immediately pivots to Donald Trump Jr.’s use of the photo, implying the two are related, when Trump never once made those claims.
On top of this, the article even embeds a tweet from Anderson Cooper falsely accusing Trump Jr. of lying:
"The idea I am kneeling in water to make it look deep is idiotic." @AndersonCooper debunks the lies being spread by Donald Trump Jr., and others who falsely claimed he and his team exaggerated the severity of Hurricane Florence. #KeepingThemHonest https://t.co/j2HptrYpe0 pic.twitter.com/zwfvIXCsIY
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) September 18, 2018
Cooper used his show last night to say that Trump Jr. claimed that the photo “showed me in Florence faking the depths of flood waters in order to somehow harm his father,” which is a lie–Trump Jr. said no such thing.
Trump Jr. responded, saying, “CNN doing what they do best. Crying & Lying. AC360 says I said it was a pic from Florence.”
“Isaid (sic) no such thing. ‘evidence’ CNN provided doesn’t even reference Florence. You guys can’t even fact check a meme. The illusion created by the pic is illustrative of the bs you sell!”
CNN doing what they do best.
Crying & Lying.@AC360 says I said it was a pic from Florence
Isaid no such thing.
“evidence" CNN provided doesn't even reference Florence. You guys can't even fact check a meme.
The illusion created by the pic is illustrative of the bs you sell! https://t.co/wnRSns1Thf
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 18, 2018