NBC News issued a correction Sunday of its inaccurate tweet Friday that President Donald Trump had praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee at a rally in Ohio, misquoting the president and leaving out the context that he was setting up praise of Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
NBC initially reported:
WATCH: President Trump says “Robert E. Lee was a great general” during Ohio rally, calling the Confederate leader “incredible.” pic.twitter.com/HhsLI1Mk05
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 13, 2018
On Sunday morning, Trump responded:
NBC News has totally and purposely changed the point and meaning of my story about General Robert E Lee and General Ulysses Grant. Was actually a shoutout to warrior Grant and the great state in which he was born. As usual, dishonest reporting. Even mainstream media embarrassed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2018
A few hours later, NBC corrected its first tweet, and reported:
CORRECTION: An earlier tweet misidentified the general President Trump described as “incredible” at a rally in Ohio. It was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, not Gen. Robert E. Lee. An attached video clip lacked the full context for Trump’s remark. Here is the full clip. pic.twitter.com/NZHj3Q2dHL
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 14, 2018
However, the initial NBC error set up an entire news cycle of criticism of the president, painting him — once again — as a Confederate sympathizer and a racist.
Time (via Yahoo! News) published a story titled, “Robert E. Lee Descendent Attacks President Trump’s Comments on Confederate General.” In it, Times referenced the Charlottesville riots last summer, in which Trump was (falsely) accused of siding with white supremacists.
Several other outlets also ran with similar stories (see tweet below).
— Rev. Rob Lee (@roblee4) October 13, 2018
Politico noted that Trump had praised both Lee and Grant, but ran with the headline, “Trump praises Robert E. Lee during Ohio rally,” though the point of Trump’s speech had been to praise Grant for defeating Lee.
Rolling Stone did the same (via Yahoo! Entertainment): “Donald Trump Is a Big Fan of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Huge.”
The Washington Post reported that Trump praised Lee — and only reported the Grant part of Trump’s speech in quoting Trump’s tweet Sunday morning.
The Southern Poverty Law Center piled on, repeating NBC’s fake news:
This “history and culture” Pres. Trump spoke of is Lost Cause revisionist history. It is not the real history of America. It’s a “history” that saw monuments to Robert E. Lee built 40 yrs after the Civil War, when Jim Crow disenfranchised Black Southerners + the KKK was revived. pic.twitter.com/AuT5fX5Qt2
— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) October 13, 2018
Left-wing politicians made full use of NBC’s fake news.
Democrat Aftab Pureval, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) in Ohio’s first congressional district, appeared alongside civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on Sunday and blasted Trump for praising Lee, and Chabot for not challenging the president.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a possible Democratic contender for president in 2020, attacked Trump for his reported remarks about Lee on Friday, alleging that Trump was “releasing a cancer into the body politic of America,” adding that “when you start to unleash hate, when you fan the flames of racism and division, you can create a fire that is out of control.”
Trump, at least, was magnanimous, thanking NBC for the correction.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.