USA Today reporter Daniel Funke has taken a beating on social media following his false report defending President Joe Biden against claims that he repeatedly checked his watch during the dignified transfer ceremony last Sunday.
Earlier this week, USA Today labeled the claim that Biden checked his watch repeatedly during the ceremony “Partly False,” arguing that images of him glancing at his wrist happened after the ceremony had ended. The fact check did not include the testimonies of several Gold Star families, who claimed to have personally witnessed Biden’s actions.
After significant backlash, USA Today issued a correction, admitting that Biden did check his watch during the ceremony and including Gold Star family statements. The rating was subsequently changed to “Missing Context.”
On Friday, the author of the report, Daniel Funke, issued a quasi-apology on Twitter in which he characterized himself as an innocent recipient of unfair attacks:
As many of you already know, this story has been corrected. Biden checked his watch multiple times during the ceremony. I regret the error. Journalists and fact-checkers are human (yes, even me!) We make mistakes. When we do, we correct them and try to make it right.
“It’s easy to dunk on journalists when we get things wrong. I get it – to many, we’re just another name on a screen. But behind that screen is a person trying to do their best,” he added.
It's easy to dunk on journalists when we get things wrong. I get it – to many, we're just another name on a screen. But behind that screen is a person trying to do their best.
— Daniel Funke (@dpfunke) September 3, 2021
Critics immediately pounced on Funke for failing to acknowledge that the first fact check essentially accused Gold Star families of lying about what they witnessed.
“With all due respect, Mr. Funke, your ‘fact check’ carried a direct implication that grieving, gold star families had LIED with their first-hand testimony of the events. Keep your ‘we regret the error’ and apologize, unequivocally, directly TO THEM,” radio host Larry O’Connor told Funke, according to the New York Post.
GOP strategist Matt Whitlock responded:
I’d have more sympathy if the ‘fact checking industry’ hadn’t viewed the Afghanistan crisis as a time to protect Biden instead of fact-checking the admin’s lies and obfuscation. We have unknown numbers of Americans stranded and they’re focused on conservative social posts.
“You didn’t get something wrong. You purposefully and willfully fact-checked Gold Star families instead of the President. You did exactly what you think you’re paid to do, which is protect Joe Biden and his party,” Spectator contributor Stephen Miller said.
After enough blowback, Funke changed the settings on the comments, allowing only for a select few people to respond. As of this writing, the only comment visible is one from Snopes editor Jordan Liles praising Funke for his honesty.
“Corrections are the hallmark of an exceptional journalist. Corrective action in a newsroom shows readers that they can trust that organization. Anyone who dunks on that needs a hug and a nap,” said Liles.
Corrections are the hallmark of an exceptional journalist. Corrective action in a newsroom shows readers that they can trust that organization. Anyone who dunks on that needs a hug and a nap.
— Jordan Liles (@jordanliles) September 3, 2021