Journalists were rattled on Saturday after President Donald Trump called out a Washington Post reporter, Dave Weigel, for tweeting a misleading picture of Trump’s rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday night.
Weigel had tweeted a picture of Trump’s rally that appeared to show an empty arena, but it was taken well before the rally got underway in front of a packed venue.
.@DaveWeigel @WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived @ the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in. Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo! pic.twitter.com/XAblFGh1ob
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017
Weigel apologized in response to Trump’s tweet, at which point the president declared victory and called on Weigel to be fired. Trump tweeted, “just admitted that his picture was a FAKE (fraud?) showing an almost empty arena last night for my speech in Pensacola when, in fact, he knew the arena was packed (as shown also on T.V.). FAKE NEWS, he should be fired.”
Trump’s tweets at Weigel appeared to rattle some members of the media, in part because the president included Weigel’s Twitter handle in his tweets.
“By including Dave Weigel’s @ handle, the president’s statement is inviting followers to gang up on a reporter,” CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote. (RELATED: 7 Times CNN Botched The News In 2017)
By including Dave Weigel’s @ handle, the president’s statement is inviting followers to gang up on a reporter https://t.co/3C5jKDvFP5
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 9, 2017
Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffrey defended Weigel, calling him “a great reporter.”
“Trump is trying to gin up ire against Post to give permission structure to those who want to doubt its Moore reporting,” Jeffrey claimed. “A manifestation of the only way Trump is smart.”
And apologized as Trump demanded. And then Trump said that’s not enough. Almost feels like wanting the apology wasn’t the point. https://t.co/v3dwtpC8Gr
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 9, 2017
Some reporters were struck that Trump called for Weigel to be fired for the relatively minor error.
“The president calling for a journalist to be fired seems like a public threat to the First Amendment,” wrote MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin.
The president calling for a journalist to be fired seems like a public threat to the First Amendment. https://t.co/Vx4csNtIP4
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 9, 2017
“Dave Weigel is one of the best reporters in the world,” Huffington Post reporter Matt Fuller wrote. “He made a mistake — in a tweet! — about CROWD SIZE. He admitted it. He apologized for it. And now the President of the United States is trying to get him fired.”
“Thanks for tackling the important issues, Mr. President,” he added.
“This White House does not criticize the press in good faith. They do it to silence the press so they can lie with impunity,” wrote Media Matters senior fellow Matthew Gertz. “The president wants the press to be every bit as sycophantic as the Hannitys of the world. Nothing less will suffice. Bow or be crushed,” he added.
“The fact is @daveweigel has more integrity than the entire White House staff put together and all Trump’s lackeys know it, too,” wrote Vox editor Matt Yglesias, who went on a rant about Trump’s tweets.
“Trump lies on a daily basis — willfully and flagrantly — and never apologizes for it,” Yglesias wrote, claiming White House press secretary Sarah Sanders “does the same and even John Kelly expresses zero remorse for smearing a member of Congress. Elected Republicans do nothing.”
“Fuck their amateur hour media criticism,” Yglesias wrote.