Stemming from the highly controversial 2016 election for the United States Presidency, one of the hot button issues right now is the reliability of the news. What we read online, or in the physical paper (increasingly online however) is looking less and less reliable, as dubious claims were thrown out by both sides in that election and reported with reckless abandon, in some case, regardless of the reliability of sources.
Google and Facebook have pledged to cut down on fake news sites, but this has led to some backlash over whether or not legitimate satire would be censored whether thoughtful commentary (from various realms of the political spectrum) would also come under fire. But one of the most common misconceptions about this “fake news” phenomenon (which is not a phenomenon in any way, as we’ll demonstrate) is that it is just small publications and sites spreading nonsense and falsehoods; just as often however it is major sources publishing spin pieces, reporting with flagrant bias or publishing stories that never happened all together.
Large television news stations, reputable magazines, and of course newspapers are as guilty as anyone else of publishing fake news, and we have compiled fifteen prime examples, but there are vast amounts of these. Obviously, to stay fair and stay true to the fact that fake news comes from both liberal and conservative sources, we’ve included several of both. While we only listed one example for some of these publications, there are usually many more: a lengthy series of books could be written about the amount of bad journalism that is out there: make no mistake, if you see it from a major source, it is likely fake, biased or misleading.
15. The New York Times: Jayson Blair
If you’re politically Republican, you may be laughing at the idea of The New York Times being a reputable source, but it remains one of the most visited sites in the United States despite the fact that the hard paper circulation is down well below one million per day. In 1998 the Times employed a young journalism student from the University of Maryland, Jayson Blair, as an intern. A passionate young writer and a (seemingly) gifted researcher, by 1999 he was a regular contributor to the paper.
By 2003, many of his colleagues and editors were becoming skeptical of his work and after some investigation into his work, they discovered that several of his articles were the result of plagiarism or downright fantasy. His work that was discovered to be fraudulent mainly dealt with the Washington D.C. sniper attacks and the effect the Iraq War was having on people stateside. He resigned from the Times after his dishonesty was proven.
14. The New Republic: Stephen Glass
The case of Stephen Glass is very similar to that of Jayson Blair. Glass attended the University of Pennsylvania and edited the student newspaper while there. He started working for The New Republic in 1995. A brilliant writer who produced entertaining and edgy work, he managed to get away with minor fabrications for years before a reporter with Forbes fact-checked an article about an adolescent hacker. That piece was determined to have been completely made up; including the name of the company involved (Jukt Micronics), and the website of that company. Glass was promptly fired from his position.
In the months and years that followed this first discovery in 1998, his former editors realized that the majority (likely more than 25 out of his 41) of his articles for The New Republic were complete or partial fabrications.
13. NBC: Brian Williams
If you like hypocrisy, we have a big, steaming plate of it for you. In recent months, Brian Williams has been a major voice in the crusade against fake news. Several times throughout his career however, he has been a source of it. Most recently and famously, he admitted to having lied about a story in which he claimed that a helicopter in which he was traveling got hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) while in Iraq. He was fired from NBC, but found work with MSNBC in late 2015.
He was also less-than-honest about his experiences at the fall of the Berlin Wall (he claimed to have witnessed it but wasn’t even in country at the time) and a couple of incidents during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and another during the Iraq War.
12. BBC: Nigerian Restaurant
BBC is widely considered to be one of the most reliable and objective (lacking bias) sources for news in the world today. But even they are not immune to the fake news bug. Back in May 2015, BBC Swahili reported that a restaurant in Anambra, Nigeria was serving human flesh to customers. They quickly took the story down after finding out that their source was unreliable and the story was false. While some human heads were found in this hotel restaurant (believed to have been involved with a criminal act in order to intimidate the hotel owner), there was no evidence that human flesh was ever served to customers.
11. USA Today: Jack Kelley
While guys like Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass were young up-and-comers who were caught doing their jobs fraudulently on their rise, Jack Kelley was one of USA Today’s top reporters when he was caught. After a single article came under fire, the publication started looking into his other work and found that the majority of his work for over a decade was at least partially fiction. That first article was one about ethnic cleaning in Serbia (Belgrade area), and his source came forward and said that his report of the events did not reflect reality. USA Today fired him but Kelley denied any misdeeds. Kelley was a five time nominee for a Pulitzer Prize.
10. Fox News: Food Stamps
Much like we admitted that many conservatives or Republicans would scoff at the idea of The New York Times being called reputable, we can say the same thing of Democrats/liberals and Fox. Fox is most definitely a conservative news source, but for the most part, they report events that have happened, but with an easy-to-spot spin. Every now and again though, they get caught publishing absolute falsehoods. The most recent example for which they were caught red-handed and had to apologize had to do with a comment about food stamp fraud.
Abby Huntsman reported on air that over $70 million was wasted throughout 2016 on food stamp fraud. This was later determined to have been a completely made up figure and the Department of Agriculture had not done such a study in years, but believed that food stamp fraud numbers were actually declining. She apologized on air.
9. NBC Sports: 2017 NBA All Star Game
In March and April 2016, the media in its entirety went into a spiraling vortex of chaos when the state of North Carolina passed some legislation that the LGBT community (and plenty of people across the country) considered wildly anti-trans, and included a law that requires trans people to use the gender listed on their official birth certificate.
In the wake of this, the NBA made a statement that vaguely stated that there may have been a problem with the league having their All-Star game in Charlotte, NC. Abcnews.com.co created a story that said that league commissioner Adam Silver threatened to pull the All Star Game from Charlotte if the law was not reversed. Abcnews.com.co is a hoax site and very effectively mimics a real news site. NBC Sports ProbasketballTalk and Cleveland.com both covered the story, but later realized it was a fake report, withdrawing their own articles.
8. New York Times: Judith Miller
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was one of the most respected journalists in the business, but her work that centered around the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and dealt with security issues and regional politics got her in trouble. Many of her stories regarding Iraq’s potential to have WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) were later proven to be at least partially inaccurate. Her biggest problem was that one of her main
7. MSNBC: The Fox Christmas Party
MSNBC has long been criticized for being the most liberal of the major news sources in the United States. They were among the most enthusiastic critics of Sarah Palin (admittedly, didn’t come off as the brightest penny in the fountain) when she was running with John McCain and during the recent election they smeared Trump as often as they could (it wasn’t hard and he certainly earned it). Back on December 9, 2016, they tried to create a conflict of interest scandal (and smear a news opponent) by pointing out that Fox News had their Christmas party at Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C.
When asked for comment, a representative from Fox showed that the company’s Christmas party had yet to take place for the year and that it was scheduled to be held at the Liaison Capitol Hill. MSNBC later admitted their mistake.
6. Washington Post: Janet Cooke
In one of the most infamous instances of journalistic dishonesty, Janet Cooke won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for a story entitled Jimmy’s World about an eight year old heroin addict. It got national attention and earned her a great reputation that was quickly eliminated when her story was scrutinized and found to be based on a boy who didn’t exist. While it was likely that such a person did exist, she couldn’t find her “Jimmy” and wrote the story anyway.
5. CBS: George W. Bush Documents
One of the biggest criticisms that George W. Bush faced throughout his presidency had to do with his not serving in the Vietnam War. This was a popular topic throughout recent and 20th century history; whether or not a candidate for the job has served in the military or been to war. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard, but was in the United States for that war. More recently, Donald Trump was criticized for getting a series of medical deferments during that period: four for being in college and one for bone spurs in his feet.
The documents that Dan Rather used in 2004 on CBS in a segment critical of Bush and his service during the war were presented as legitimate memos from the period, implying that Bush was incompetent, disregarded certain orders, and had to be “covered for” by other officers. While there may have been truth to the content of these documents, they were ultimately proven to have been forgeries. CBS issued statements on the unverified documents, and Rather retired the next year.
4. CNN: Trump and the Golden Shower
This is still a recent event, and CNN hasn’t admitted to this being a fake story or apologized for it, so take this with a grain of salt. Many conservative news outlets have reported the Trump “golden shower” story as a prank by some of the geniuses (yes, they are geniuses) on 4Chan. As ZeroHedge has reported, a group of people on 4Chan submitted their “dossier” to GOP strategist (but vocal Trump critic) and pundit Rick Wilson, who then passed it onto the CIA, and a few steps later it was on BuzzFeed and being reported on CNN. Initially it looked like conclusive proof that Trump had strong ties to Russia. He still may, but this doesn’t prove it. Most news sources have just swept this one under the rug, but some have continued to claim that it shows Trump is close with the Russians.
3. Breitbart: Several Instances
Now, recall what we said about Fox throwing out stories with conservative bias and occasional sloppy reporting, the same can be said of Breitbart but to greater effect. Most of what the site publishes is credible, but with a heavy conservative bias, as has been their norm since the death of founder Andrew Breitbart, who some think would be critical of the site bearing his name. They have also published plenty of stories that likely didn’t happen or greatly misrepresented facts. They were involved with “Pizzagate”, and we aren’t going to touch that one.
For many, Breitbart may not be considered “mainstream news” but as the 35th highest visited site in the United States, and with millions of daily readers, it can’t get much more mainstream, especially with the election of Donald Trump.
Just over a week ago, the site published an article that is being called “fake news” about a mob on New Year’s eve in Dortmund, Germany chanting “Allahu akbar” and vandalizing Christian churches. German police said that no such events occurred, but Breitbart has reported that the German government has been suppressing police reports of misdeeds by Muslim refugees for a while now. The site has also never admitted to having published a false story, claiming that other mainstream sites are not trustworthy and that they publish what the rest won’t.
2. New York Times: Michael Finkel
If you’ve seen the 2015 film True Story starring Jonah Hill and James Franco, you’re at least familiar with this tale. Michael Finkel was a writer who got fired from the New York Times and later went on to get involved with a high profile murder case after the perpetrator used his name as an alias while on the run from the law. But how he got fired is an interesting story by itself.
Finkel was covering the African slave trade and wrote an article about a boy named Youssouf Malé, a young boy who worked as a slave in Ivory Coast. His editors later discovered that the story was based on several boys and that they were not actually slaves, just poorly paid workers in bad conditions. Not a bad thing to report on, but he was less than honest and got fired.
1. Bloomberg: Nancy Reagan Endorses Who?
This is an interesting case of reporting something that was false at the time but some have speculate has actually come true. Bloomberg is a fairly reputable source in terms of getting straight to the facts, but the criticism of having a heavy New York liberal bias is well earned. Back in 2015 they published a story that indicated that Nancy Reagan, now-deceased (March, 2016) wife of Republican icon Ronald Reagan, had thrown her support behind Democratic nominee and the GOP’s own anti-Christ Hillary Clinton. This was later proven to have come from two spoof sites: NationalReport.net, and DrudgeReport.com.co. National Report admits to being a satire site, but the latter was designed to look like the real Drudge Report site.
At the start of this entry we said that this piece of fake news may have come true and in a way it did. In October 2016, Michael Reagan, Ronald’s eldest son, told CNN that he believed his late parents would have both been disgusted by Donald Trump’s campaign and that his mother likely would have voted for Clinton. This means little as his parents are both deceased, but when Bloomberg originally reported that Nancy was backing Hillary, the publication was duped by a couple of fake news sources.
As you can see from this article, these publications all put out nonsense and lies. It’s all fake news.
Sources: The Hill, Telegraph, USA Today, Washington Post, Mediaite, CNN, The Verge, LA Times, New York Times