One source, one lie … dangerous in the hands of a biased media

Thursday, March 18, 2021
Jody Brown, Steve Jordahl (

News with magnifying glass 2The Washington Post has issued a correction to what was a blockbuster story asserting President Donald Trump strong-armed Georgia election officials to make up fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, he did no such thing.

The Washington Post broke the story, but because it reflected poorly on President Trump, the rest of the mainstream news quickly latched onto it:

NBC News: "NBC News confirming that President Trump called Georgia's chief elections investigator to 'find the fraud,' saying that official would be 'a national hero.'"

That three-word phrase – "find the fraud" – appeared in numerous news reports in the following days and weeks.

Late last week, however, the Post corrected the story, saying the president never said to "find the fraud." The newspaper now reports Trump asked an election investigator to "scrutinize ballots in Fulton County."

Curtis Houck of Media Research Center explains that the Post used an anonymous source for its reporting and never checked into the claim – because the story made President Trump look bad. "This was another example of where the media accepted the 'if it rings true it is true' argument," he tells One News Now. "If something sounds good to them and it sounds true, they're going to run with it."

Other media outlets and commentator agree with Houck's assessment – and highlight how use of a single, anonymous source can perpetuate a lie:

New York Post: "The paper originally relied on a single anonymous source for the tale, without letting readers know what (if anything) made that source credible. But the 'news' so fit the anti-Trump biases of so many that it still spread everywhere, even becoming part of the 'evidence' at Trump’s second impeachment." [link]

Greg Gutfeld (Fox News): "They claimed they confirmed it – but ask yourself, how could all of them be wrong about the same exact thing? There is only one way: one source …. We knew this was behind most anti trump drech – one anonymous source gave it to Paper A, then Network B calls the same source to get confirmation. Then Snopes and the fact-checkers agree." [link]

Columnist Ben Shapiro: "This may be the worst major media correction I have ever seen in my life …. They talked to a single source who was supposedly privy to the phone call. That person made up quotes …. So, the Post reported stuff that wasn't true, [but at the time] there were other outlets that confirmed the reporting …. You now have a single [anonymous] source who is dictating news to a wide variety of mainstream media outlets … [and] this means there is no way to confirm whether you have more than one source confirming a story is true." [link]

Anonymous sourcing is a practice that journalists are supposed to restrict to sources that could be in imminent danger if their identity was known – a whistleblower or mob informant or undercover cop, for example. But according to Houck, the anti-Trump media started using anonymous sources to hide their lazy or purposefully false reporting.


"A lot of these big, salacious, palace-intrigue stories writ large is a lot of these people are the same sources," he summarizes. "These news outlets, while they might be – quote, unquote – 'competitors' and be chasing the story to see who can get it out first, rely on the same people."

Trump issued his reaction in a statement thanking the Post for their correction – but also slamming the fact that false stories always seem to be slanted against Republicans … and that "stories that hurt Democrats or undermine their narratives are buried, ignored, or delayed until they can do the least harm – for example, after an election is over."


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