The paper attempted to piggyback on a Politico scoop about an internal document showing that the Trump administration had screened the political views of 274 potential celebrity contributors who were being considered for a $300 million taxpayer-funded ad campaign to “defeat despair” about the coronavirus. Critics say the PSA initiative was political in nature and that the White House wanted to use public funds to support Trump’s re-election.
In its own write-up of the story, the Washington Post highlighted the “notes” attached to several of the celebrities asked to participate in the ad campaign. For example, the document said that actress Jennifer Lopez had “made a political statement during her Super Bowl performance to address Trump’s immigration policies.”
In an apparent attempt to highlight the political favoritism purportedly revealed by the document, WaPo also pointed to the entry for singer-songwriter Billie Eilish. But the paper’s attempt at muck-raking was severely hampered by a lack of reading comprehension.
According to the Post, Eilish was described in the document as “destroying our country and everything we care about.” Except it actually says the exact opposite, noting that Eilish once accused Trump of laying waste to America during a controversial performance at the Democratic National Convention in August.
“Made a political statement on gun control in 2019; will be a first time voter in 2020; not a Trump supporter, stated he ‘is destroying our country and everything we care about,’” reads the full description of the singer.
Reading is fundamental, guys. pic.twitter.com/LHY2XydVxL
— rael gost pictuers (@JackFeerick) October 29, 2020
Predictably, numerous outlets jumped on WaPo’s sensational but extremely inaccurate anecdote and ran stories about how the US president was brooding over the destructive powers of the pop star. Apparently few bothered to read what the publicly available document actually said.
Music outlets in particular fell victim to the Washington Post’s sloppy reporting job. Sites such as Complex and Billboard fired off screeching headlines detailing Trump’s hatred of Eilish – inverting the truth in the most literal way possible.
Some outlets have issued corrections or quietly deleted tweets about the ‘bombshell,’ but incredibly, the Washington Post has yet to issue a correction to its own story.
outlets are starting to correct their stories but a lot of billie eilish misquotes are still standing. stereogum just deleted theirs. pic.twitter.com/nenQiE6blm
— Jill Krajewski (@JillKrajewski) October 29, 2020
The saga of journalistic malpractice prompted Twitter observers to speculate that even a simple Google search would have revealed that the Washington Post had misattributed Eilish’s own words to the Trump administration’s alleged political policing.
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