Welcome back to Can't Handle the Truth, our Saturday column looking at the past seven days of fake news and hoaxes that have spread thanks to the internet.
The president announced on January 2 that he'd be holding some kind of awards' ceremony for fake news later that week on January 5. He proved that he was BIASED and a LIAR shortly thereafter by moving the event to January 17, and further demonstrated his DISHONESTY by not giving awards of any kind, and instead just posting a listicle on GOP.com.
OK, yes, it's unfair for me to jump all over Trump for changing the date of his "awards" and then under-delivering. But if you look at the articles targeted by the president's clap-back-at-the-haters blog post, most of them were minor errors and fudges of the sort that Trump committed while talking about his awards.
For instance, among the 11 examples of "unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news,” are a gloomy and ultimately wrong prediction about the stock market from Paul Krugman of the New York Times written on election night. Krugman tossed out the idea that the stock market might "never" recover from the plunge it took when Trump's win was announced—but Krugman rescinded his prediction three days later. (The markets, as Trump loves to remind us, have been hitting record highs.) Then there was a self-acknowledged "bad tweet” that the Washington Post's Dave Weigel posted about a sensitive issue for Trump: crowd size. Shortly after the tweet kicked up a minor firestorm (because it made a Trump rally look deserted when it actually wasn't), Weigel deleted it, and said calling him out for it was "very fair."
Trump did out some truly atrocious reporting errors, some of which I've covered in this column, like CNN and ABC News botching timelines in stories about the Trump-Russia scandal. But generally speaking, the publications that Trump criticized this week had already apologized for the errors long ago. And while these were indeed bad examples of journalism, it seems like (shocker!) Trump may have overlooked a few similarly flawed stories.
For instance, why didn't Fox News's reporting of the Seth Rich hoax, which terrorized a grieving family, get an award? What about that network's attempts to falsely smear one of the accusers of Senate hopeful Roy Moore? Or Breitbart's false reporting about climate change? Or the outrageous failed attempt by Project Veritas to trick the Washington Post into publishing false allegations against Moore? Weirdly, I just noticed that these publications tend to support Trump, and their false stories all flatter Trump's beliefs and political positions. But since our president is just an unbiased media watchdog, he must have made a mistake by not giving these folks fake news awards. Oh well, I'm sure he'll get it right next time.
Speaking of which: For your consideration, here are some new candidates for Trump's 2019 awards. Let's keep our fingers crossed that they don't get forgotten just because they came out in January.
The flu vaccine can kill you
Last week, I praised Your News Wire (LA's answer to InfoWars) for being funny. That was fake news, and I apologize. Your News Wire is still a drag, and they proved that this week by creating a viral hoax about people being killed by the flu vaccine. The downright reckless headline they went with is "CDC Doctor: ‘Disastrous’ Flu Shot Is Causing Deadly Flu Outbreak," and boy is it ever bad.
The story provides a dubious quote from an anonymous doctor at the Centers for Disease Control who supposedly said, "Some of the patients I’ve administered the flu shot to this year have died"—thus apparently blaming the deaths on the vaccine. After that, the post becomes an old fashioned conspiracy blog about the dangers of vaccines—the sort of thing that's catnip to a certain kind of well-meaning but misinformed parent.
There is no truth to the central thrust of Your News Wire's story. It is true that the flu this year is a somewhat nasty one, and has killed people who received flu shots, but the vaccine itself hasn't killed anyone. This Your News Wire post, on the other hand, might kill people if it discourages them from getting vaccinated. As Media Matters pointed out to me in an email, the article got more than 150,000 Facebook engagements.
The flu shot is a miracle, but an imperfect one. If you're skeptical, you should read up on how it works, and how it doesn't. But generally speaking, no matter who you are, you should get it. It might save your life, and it's definitely not going to kill you.
If you RT a tweet, a lottery winner will give you money
Shane Missler, a 20-year-old from Port Richey, Florida, won a $451 million Mega Millions jackpot. Good for that guy. He's rich now, and while he claims he's going to do good deeds with his money, he is never going to give you, the reader of this post, a fucking dime.
But you can win a jackpot in internet points! All you have to do is create a fake Shane Missler account on Twitter (now deleted) or a fake screengrab from Oprah's Instagram claiming that people who like share and follow will be getting a $5,000 cut of Missler's winnings. As you probably noticed, someone did this on Monday, and it was extremely annoying.
A gun-wielding dognapper is on the loose in Chicago
On Thursday morning, a shelter dog named Polly was set to be adopted by a shelter employee, but first she was loaded into a van with several other dogs and taken to be spayed. When the driver got back, he said some fiend had gone to great lengths to steal Polly. The criminal had supposedly tied a dog a street sign as bait, waited for the van to stop, aimed a gun at the driver, and made off with Polly. The shelter was horrified, and created a Facebook post that attracted thousands of shares, and hundreds of supportive comments.
This all turned out to be bullshit. The driver later confessed to making up the whole thing so he could keep the dog. Polly is now back with the shelter employee who is adopting her.
It's a pretty minor story, but I'm mentioning it here because lately I've been trying to convince my girlfriend to let our dog into our yard unsupervised, and that has involved persuading her that dog-stealing maniacs aren't nearly as common as she thinks they are. I hope she reads this.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.