*Updated June 7, 2018
“Conspiracy theory” has been the media’s preferred description of President Trump’s dubbing the FBI’s use of an informant within his political campaign as “spygate.” To bolster their analysis, the media has been offering a highlight reel of the president’s prior comments on unverified information. Believing they’ve identified a pattern, CNN writes, “The idea — debunked, of course — that the FBI put a spy in his campaign then fits into the too-good-to-check category for Trump. It so supports his fundamental belief that the establishment/deep state is out to get him that he feels as though he doesn’t need to check it against established facts. He just knows it’s true. In his gut.”
This commentary is almost laughable coming from CNN because they, along with many of their fellow news outlets, have habitually succumbed to the very same pattern of believing and reporting too-good-to-check stories that support their fundamental belief that President Trump and his administration are corrupt. These are stories that reporters knew in their gut to be true, only to later discover that they were nothing more than conspiracy theories. Consider some examples of these conspiracy theories recently promoted by our nation’s most prominent news outlets.
- Trump’s voter fraud expert might have engaged in voter fraud
In an article titled “AP: Trump’s Voter Fraud Expert Registered in 3 States,” The Associate Press insinuated that Gregg Phillips was himself participating in voter fraud. Republished in USA Today and The Chicago Tribune, the article leads with the statement, “A man who President Donald Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud was registered to vote in multiple states during the 2016 presidential election, the Associated Press has learned.” Additionally, The Associated Press tweeted, “[email protected] learns Donald Trump’s voter fraud expert was registered in 3 states during 2016 presidential election. apne.ws/2kllzDz”.
However, Gregg Phillips had lived in Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi—the three states where he was registered to vote. According to the article, “At the time of November’s presidential election, Phillips’ status was “inactive” in Mississippi and suspended in Texas.” Nevertheless, The Associated Press followed this acknowledgment with the statement, “Officials in both states told the AP that Phillips could have voted, however, by producing identification and updating his address at the polls.”
- Donald Trump Jr. was given an advanced copy of stolen Wikileaks documents
Touted as a development in the possibility that President Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election, CNN reported that Donald Trump Jr. received a decryption key and website address to stolen Wikileaks documents before they were made public. CNN reported that the e-mail was sent on September 4; however, The Washington Post later confirmed that the e-mail was actually sent on September 14, a day after Wikileaks made the documents public.
The e-mail says, “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC”. It was sent by Michael Erickson who was the president of an aviation management company, not a Russian spy. According to Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., “The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this.” CNN has since corrected the story.
- Paul Manafort’s notes indicate Russia was donating to the Republican National Committee
NBC News broke a story headlined “Manafort Notes from Russian Meet Contain Cryptic Reference to ‘Donations.’” According to the article, former campaign manager Paul Manafort previously failed to disclose notes from a controversial Trump Tower meeting with the Russians during the 2016 campaign in which the word “donations” appears near a reference to the Republican National Committee. According to The Daily Caller, “NBC began walking back the ‘potential bombshell’ almost immediately, issuing a correction the same day noting that the word ‘donation’ didn’t actually appear in the notes, but quoting one source who said the word ‘donor’ was in the notes.” However, Politico reports, “The notes do not contain the word ‘donor,’ as NBC News previously reported,” and, “Notes from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a meeting he attended last year with a Russian lobbyist and Donald Trump Jr. are not seen as damaging to the Trump family or campaign officials, according to government officials and others who have looked at the notes.
- White House communications director under investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee for ties to Russian bankers
CNN published an article claiming that the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating Anthony Scaramucci, a key member of President Trump’s transition team, regarding a meeting he had with Kirill Dmitriev—an executive from the Russian Direct Investment Fund—during the transition. This story was eventually deleted and then retracted, and the reporter and two editors associated with the story resigned from CNN.
- Ivanka Trump was engaged in same practices as the Clinton Foundation
Wall Street Journal White House and money in politics reporter Rebecca Ballhaus tweeted, “Saudi Arabia and UAE pledge $100 million to Ivanka’s Women Entrepreneurs Fund, per @carolelee.” She then immediately added, “Trump pilloried Clinton for such donations to the Clinton Foundation on the campaign trail.” Likewise, CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto added, “This is virtually identical to what Trump and others in GOP criticized Clinton Foundation for.” And CNN, ABC, and Telemundo contributor Ana Navarro also affirmed this as an “Ivanka Fund” in a tweet.
However, Wall Street Journal editor Sohrab Ahmari refuted this claim, tweeting, “No, it’s not. It’s not ‘Ivanka’s fund.’ Read the story: This is a World Bank initiative that Ivanka is championing.” Likewise, NPR reports, “The World Bank fund, which provides technical help and investment funding for women business owners, differs from the Clinton Foundation in some significant ways. While Ivanka Trump proposed the idea along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she is not involved with its operation.”
- Trump’s travel ban was based upon which countries he had business ties to
Following President Trump’s executive order restricting travelers from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya, The Washington Post reported, “The seven nations targeted for new visitation restrictions by President Trump on Friday all have something in common: They are places he does not appear to have any business interests.” The article concludes with the words of Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy for the National Immigration Law Center, “To be blunt, we really don’t know what to make of which motives are driving this president’s decisions. … From what we could tell from his campaign and his actions since he became president, what seems to be first and foremost on his mind is his own self-interest and an obsession with his brand.”
Similar insinuations were made through the reporting of news outlets such as CNN, Fortune, Bloomberg, Newsweek, and NPR, with headlines such as: “Trump’s Muslim Ban is Harmful and Haphazard—but is It also Kleptocratic?” (Slate); “President Trump’s Muslim Ban Excludes Countries Linked to His Sprawling Business Empire” (New York Daily News); and “Who hasn’t Trump Banned? People from Places where He’s Done Business” (The New York Times).
However, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer told ABC’s “This Week” that these seven countries were selected based upon existing concerns, saying “[T]he Obama administration put these first and foremost and said that these countries need to have further travel restrictions based on the intelligence that we have.” According to The Hill, “In February of 2016, the Obama Administration added Libya, Yemen, and Somalia to a list of ‘countries of concern,’ which placed some restrictions on Visa Waiver Program travel on those who had visited the countries after March 1, 2011. Iran, Syria, Iraq and Sudan were already on the list from the administration’s original law in 2015.” President Trump used this Terrorist Travel Prevention Act as the starting point for his efforts to impose extensive travel restrictions on countries on concern.
- Trump may try to suppress an unfavorable report on climate change
The New York Times suggested that President Trump may prevent a report titled the “National Climate Assessment” from becoming publicly available because the administration disagrees with the report’s conclusions. They wrote, “Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report. But those who challenge scientific data on human-caused climate change say they are equally worried that the draft report, as well as the larger National Climate Assessment, will be publicly released.” The Times even indicated that they were the first to make the public aware of the existence of the report. However, a correction was later issued because the report had been publicly available for more than half a year before the article was published.
8. Trump assaulted Melania and ordered the Secret Service to cover it up
Despite some journalists having seen her days earlier, and despite the knowledge that she was recovering from Kidney surgery, some in the media assumed a conspiracy. The senior editor at The Atlantic tweeted a theory that the President may have “punched the First Lady in the White House … then ordered the Secret Service to conceal the assault”, and a senior writer at Rolling Stone tweeted his suspicion that Melania’s absence “could be about concealing abuse” because President Trump is “a man with a history of abusing women, including those to whom he is married.” Likewise, the hosts of The View discussed the subject, and Brian Stelzer told a CNN panel, “There’s been a lot of questions about her surgery, her time at Walter Reed, and now her invisibility. … How long does she have to be out of sight to make this a legitimate media story?” However, Melania appeared shortly afterward at an event for Gold Star military families.
Conspiracy theories are inherent to our nature. Every one of us is predisposed to accept what we want to believe. Often, we deceive ourselves by ignoring readily available information that contradicts what we want to believe. Perhaps the greatest conspiracy theory that we readily accept because it matches what we want to believe is the idea that God is too loving and tolerant to allow severe national trouble or to bring judgment upon our nation. This notion simply proves to be too-good-to-check because it fundamentally agrees with what we want to believe about God and our relationship with Him.
Belief in a narrative is not sufficient to make it true. Like CNN, it is easy for us to point at others and mock them for deliberately ignoring facts that challenge their beliefs while we ourselves engage in the very same practice. Perhaps we would do well to consider where our own blind spots may be. Have we honestly evaluated the strength of our nation’s relationship with God? Have we endeavored to discern the hour in which we live? Here are some suggested articles to help in this process:
1. Cillizza, Chris. “Donald Trump Turned a Rumor into a Full-Blown Government Conspiracy in Just 5 Days.” CNN, May 23, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/23/politics/donald-trump-spygate/.
2. Burke, Garance. “AP: Trump’s Voter Fraud Expert Registered in 3 States.” The Associated Press, January 30, 2017. Last Updated January 31, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://www.apnews.com/80497cfb5f054c9b8c9e0f8f5ca30a62/AP:-Trump%27s-voter-fraud-expert-registered-in-3-states.
3. “AP: Trump’s Voter Fraud Expert Registered in 3 States.” The Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-trump-voter-fraud-expert-phillips-20170130-story.html.
4. Burke, Garance. “AP: Trump’s Voter Fraud Expert Registered in 3 States.”
5. The Associated Press. Twitter Press. January 30, 2017, 5:31 PM. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://twitter.com/ap/status/826241374160818177.
6. Burke, “AP: Trump’s Voter Fraud Expert Registered in 3 States.”
8. Raju, Manu and Jeremy Herb. “Email Pointed Trump Campaign to Wikileaks Documents.” CNN, n.d. Last Updated December 8, 2017. Accessed January 9, 2018. http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/08/politics/email-effort-give-trump-campaign-wikileaks-documents/index.html?sr=twCNN120817email-effort-give-trump-campaign-wikileaks-documents0808AMVODtop.
9. WikiLeaks. Twitter Post. September 13, 2016, 2:44 PM. Accessed January 9, 2018. https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/775812373269454848.
10. Helderman, Rosalind and Tom Hamberger. “Email Pointed Trump Campaign to Wikileaks Documents that were Already Public.” The Washington Post, December 8, 2017. Accessed January 9, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/email-offering-trump-campaign-wikileaks-documents-referred-to-information-already-public/2017/12/08/61dc2356-dc37-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html?utm_term=.7fae2d2844af.
13. Raju, “Email Pointed Trump Campaign to Wikileaks Documents.”
14. Dilanian, Ken and Carol Lee. “Manafort Notes from Russian Meet Contain Cryptic Reference to ‘Donations.’” NBC News, August 31, 2017. Accessed January 11, 2018. https://web.archive.org/https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/manafort-notes-russian-meet-contain-cryptic-reference-donations-n797816.
16. Hasson, Peter. “Yet Another Anonymously Sourced Trump-Russia Story Falls Apart.” The Daily Caller, September 7, 2017. Accessed January 11, 2018. http://dailycaller.com/2017/09/07/yet-another-anonymously-sourced-trump-russia-story-falls-apart/.
17. Dawsey, Josh and Ali Watkins. “Notes from Meeting with Russians Said Not to be Damaging to Trump Family.” Politico, September 7, 2017. Accessed January 11, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/07/russian-meeting-notes-not-damaging-to-trump-family-242464.
18. Logan, Bryan. “3 CNN Staffers are Out Over Retracted Russia Investigation Story.” CNN, June 26, 2017. Accessed January 4, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/cnn-russia-retraction-staffers-resign-anthony-scaramucci-2017-6.
19. CNN Politics. Twitter Post. June 23, 2017. 8:50 PM. Accessed January 4, 2018. https://twitter.com/CNNPolitics/status/878460184510828544/photo/1.
20. Logan, Bryan. “3 CNN Staffers are Out Over Retracted Russia Investigation Story.”
21. Ballhaus, Rebecca. Twitter Post. May 20, 2017, 9:16 PM. Accessed January 19. 2018. https://twitter.com/rebeccaballhaus/status/866145700937179136.
22. Ballhaus, Rebecca. Twitter Post. May 20, 2017, 9:17 PM. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://twitter.com/rebeccaballhaus/status/866145787750871040.
23. Sciutto, Jim. Twitter Post. May 21, 2017, 5:59 AM. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://twitter.com/jimsciutto/status/866277335284277253.
24. Navarro, Ana. Twitter Post, May 21, 2017, 5:54 AM. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://twitter.com/ananavarro/status/866276121427488768.
25. Sohrab, Ahmari. Twitter Post. May 21, 2017, 2:25 PM. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://twitter.com/SohrabAhmari/status/866404590962585602.
26. Zarroli, Jim. “Saudis and the UAE Will Donate $100 Million to a Fund Inspired by Ivanka Trump.” NPR, May 21, 2017. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/21/529417148/saudis-and-the-uae-will-donate-100-million-to-a-fund-inspired-by-ivanka-trump.
27. Helderman, Rosalind. “Countries where Trump Does Business are Not Hit by New Travel Restrictions.” The Washington Post, January 28, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/countries-where-trump-does-business-are-not-hit-by-new-travel-restrictions/2017/01/28/dd40535a-e56b-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?utm_term=.466ceea4cadc.
29. Blaine, Kyle and Julia Horowitz. “How the Trump Administration Chose the 7 Countries in the Immigration Executive Order.” CNN, n.d Last Updated January 30, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/politics/how-the-trump-administration-chose-the-7-countries/.
30. Hincks, Joseph. “These Countries with Business Links to Trump aren’t Part of His Immigration Ban.” Fortune, January 27, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://fortune.com/2017/01/27/donald-trump-muslim-immigration-ban-conflict/.
31. Melby, Caleb, Blacki Migliozzi and Michael Keller. “Trump’s Immigration Ban Excludes Countries with Business Ties.” Bloomberg, n.d. Last Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-trump-immigration-ban-conflict-of-interest/.
32. Moore, Jack and Conor Gaffey. “What’s Behind Donald Trump’s Decision to Include Some Muslim-Majority Countries in the Travel Ban—and Not Others?” Newsweek, January 31, 2017. Last Updated n.d. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.newsweek.com/muslim-majority-countries-not-included-trump-travel-ban-550141.
33. “Countries Listed on Trump’s Refugee Ban Don’t Include Those He has Business Ties with.” NPR, All Things Heard, January 28. Interview Between Marilyn Geewax and Michel Martin. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2017/01/28/512199324/countries-listed-on-trumps-refugee-ban-dont-include-those-he-has-business-with.
34. Voorhees, Josh. “Trump’s Muslim Ban is Harmful and Haphazard—but is It also Kleptocratic?” January 30, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/01/30/did_trump_write_the_muslim_ban_with_his_business_in_mind.html.
35. Sommerfeldt, Chris. “President Trump’s Muslim Ban Excludes Countries Linked to His Sprawling Business Empire.” New York Daily News, n.d. Last Updated February 2, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-muslim-ban-excludes-countries-linked-businesses-article-1.2957956.
36. Painter, Richard and Norman Eisen. “Who hasn’t Trump Banned? People from Places where He’s Done Business.” The New York Times, January 29, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/opinion/who-hasnt-trump-banned-people-from-places-where-hes-made-money.html.
37. “‘This Week’ Transcript 1-29-17: Sean Spicer, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and Robert Gates.” ABC News, January 29, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-29-17-sean-spicer-sen-mitch/story?id=45112815.
38. Shelbourne, Mallory. “Spicer: Obama Administration Originally Flagged 7 Countries in Trump’s Order.” The Hill, January 29, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/316733-spicer-obama-administration-originally-flagged-7-countries.
39. Loffredo, Nicholas. “Trump Aides: More Nations May be Added to Immigration Ban.” Newsweek, January 29, 2017. Last Updated n.d. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.newsweek.com/trump-aides-more-nations-added-immigration-ban-549801.
40. Friedman, Lisa. “Scientists Fear Trump will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report.” The New York Times, August 7, 2017. Accessed January 9, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/climate/climate-change-drastic-warming-trump.html?_r=0.
42. Lahren, Tomi. “Sean Hannity 6/5/18 | Hannity Fox News | June 5, 2018.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sya82vDXSQ (accessed June 6, 2018.).
43. David Frum. Twitter Post, June 2, 2018, 11:46 AM. Accessed June 6, 2018. https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/1002984804885893122?lang=en.
44. Jamil Smith. Twitter Post, June 3, 2018, 4:44 AM. Accessed June 6, 2018. https://twitter.com/jamilsmith/status/1003240956798349316.
45. Lahren, Tomi. “Sean Hannity 6/5/18 | Hannity Fox News | June 5, 2018.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sya82vDXSQ (accessed June 6, 2018.).
46. Bennett, Kate. “Melania Trump Attends First Official Event in 24 Days.” CNN, n.d. Last Updated June 5, 2018. Accessed June 6, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/04/politics/melania-trump-gold-star/.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.