Fake news driven by a Trump-obsessed media is not just a U.S. phenomenon. That was shown in stark clarity this weekend when the UK’s Telegraph newspaper was forced to issue a retraction and a detailed apology for a smear piece they ran against Melania Trump on January 19.
The Telegraph’s published apology:
Following last Saturday’s (Jan 19) Telegraph magazine cover story “The mystery of Melania”, we have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published. Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family. Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.
We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump. They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.
We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations. As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her legal costs.
Have to say that for as brutal as it must have been for the Telegraph to eat this much crow, there’s a hell of a difference between this apology and what you see coming from U.S. outlets when they get it wrong. When is the New York Times going to write an editorial apology to Nick Sandmann and offer his family some money? When is BuzzFeed going to correct the record on that embarrassing Michael Cohen story they ran a couple of weeks ago? And, you know, a thousand other examples we could mention.
There is certainly something to be said for a free and thriving press, and we acknowledge that publishers in Britain do not enjoy the same First Amendment protections as journalists here in the States. Further, we would be loathe to see a careless crackdown on practices that could hinder that freedom.
On the other hand, we must demand truth and accountability from reporters who claim to have it. Perhaps the free marketplace of ideas will sort all of this out eventually, but in the meantime, our American newspapers/cable news outlets are doing a whole lot of damage to our democracy.