As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to review the year’s worst cases of media misquotes, misleading narratives, major corrections and straight-up fake news.
While last year’s fake reporting largely occurred during the media’s relentless pursuit to prove Russian collusion, this year’s list is much more varied. However, some themes emerged: stories about then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the U.S. border were routinely flagged for misinformation.
Without further ado, here is the list of 2018’s worst examples of fake news:
1. WaPo Blames Border Patrol For Death of 7-Year-Old Migrant
The Washington Post published a story in December focusing on a 7-year-old migrant child from Guatemala who died in border patrol custody.
Despite WaPo’s misleading headline suggesting border patrol was to blame for the girl’s death, the full timeline of events and statements from the girl’s father praising border agents revealed a different story.
2. CNN And The Hill Spread Retracted Sexual Assault Claim Against Kavanaugh
CNN and The Hill both reported on a sexual assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in late September without ever mentioning that the claim had been quickly retracted.
Jeffrey Catalan apologized for making a “mistake” in leveling the false claim against Kavanaugh, but CNN and The Hill’s initial reports on the claim failed to note the retraction. The Hill later retracted a tweet bolstering the claim and CNN updated its misleading report.
3. Boston Globe Corrects Liz Warren Story — Makes Her Less Native American
Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a DNA test in October seeking to prove her repeated claims that she has Native American ancestry.
The Boston Globe initially reported on the DNA test by explaining that Warren was somewhere between 1/32 and 1/512 Native American. However, the paper eventually issued two corrections that damaged Warren’s ancestral claims even further.
“The generational range based on the ancestor that the report identified suggests she’s between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American,” The Globe admitted.
4. NYT Accuses Nikki Haley Of Purchasing Expensive Curtains
The New York Times initially tied U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to expensive curtains hanging in the ambassador’s apartment in New York, writing, “Nikki Haley’s View of New York Is Priceless. Her Curtains? $52,701.”
However, NYT’s own article later admitted that the curtains were approved in 2016 and that Haley had no say in the matter.
5. Media Still Blaming Republicans For Steele Dossier
CNN’s Jim Sciutto, MSNBC’s Katy Tur, and MSNBC’s Ari Melber were all responsible for falsely claiming that Never-Trump Republicans were responsible for initial funding of the salacious Steele dossier.
Washington Free Beacon founder Paul Singer did pay Fusion GPS for standard opposition research, however, he stopped paying Fusion GPS well before they contracted Christopher Steele to create the dossier. That research was paid for solely by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.
This falsehood has been shared so many times that even former FBI director James Comey has repeated it.
6. CNN Analyst Publishes Dubious Report On Additional Kavanaugh Allegations
CNN political analyst and Sentinel editor Brian Karem published a report in September claiming that “Montgomery County investigators” were looking into an additional allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Local police disputed that they were investigating any claims, and Karem later updated his reporting to indicate that his sources were not police, but rather random “investigators in Montgomery County.”
7. CNN Accuses Ted Cruz Of Being Afraid To Appear On Their Network
CNN accused Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz of being “scared” to come on their programs in the wake of the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Sen. Ted Cruz blasted CNN for the falsehood, explaining on Twitter that he had done a 15-minute interview on the network the day prior.
“CNN has aired NONE of it,” Cruz complained. “Why not air the (entire) interview?
8. CNN Spreads False Statistic On School Shooting
After a May school shooting in Texas, CNN anchor Jim Sciutto and political correspondent Sara Murray both claimed that there had already been 22 school shootings in 2018.
CNN’s list of “school shootings” includes accidental firearm discharges, events that don’t involve any students, and domestic disputes — hardly the incidents that most people consider to be a school shooting.
9. NBC Sat On Information That Contradicted Kavanaugh Allegations
While NBC’s story is not incorrect, its choice to sit on evidence that contradicted a serious sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh earned them a spot on this list.
Celebrity porn lawyer Michael Avenatti claimed he knew a second woman who could back up gang rape allegations made against Kavanaugh by his client, Julie Swetnick.
That second woman actually contradicted the allegations in a phone interview with NBC News on September 30. Mysteriously, NBC chose not to publish this information until weeks later and after Kavanaugh had already been confirmed to the Supreme Court.
10. McClatchy Claims Mueller Has Evidence That Corroborates Piece Of Dossier
McClatchy reported in April that special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen had been in Prague in the summer of 2016. The report appeared to corroborate a key part of the largely unverified Steele dossier.
But no other news outlets came forward to confirm McClatchy’s reporting and a spokesperson for Mueller’s team hinted to The Daily Caller News Foundation that the report may be false.
Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, emphatically denied in December that Cohen had ever been in Prague as the dossier alleges.
11. Jim Acosta Said Illegal Immigrants Wouldn’t Climb Border
CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta got into an ugly, public battle with President Donald Trump over immigration in November. During the testy exchange, Acosta claimed that illegal immigrants would “not be” trying to climb over the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Unfortunately for Acosta, images a week later revealed that immigrants were doing exactly what he claimed they wouldn’t.
12. WaPo Ran Kavanaugh Story With Knowingly False Information
The Washington Post ran a story in October suggesting that Georgetown Preparatory School was hiring a new employee to deal with fallout from the Kavanaugh hearings.
The author of the report was informed by a spokesperson for Georgetown Prep that the new position was actually listed well before the Kavanaugh hearings. Somehow, that information didn’t make it into the report and WaPo had to issue a correction.
“This was a completely unintentional error-I read right over the date in haste. Story was corrected and correction is noted. Have a great weekend, all!” reporter Emily Heil wrote in response to backlash.
13. Andrea Mitchell Says Disgraced FL Election Official Is A Republican
Allegations of voter fraud and electoral misconduct in Florida during the 2018 midterms brought Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes into the spotlight.
Snipes, a Democrat, had been accused of misconduct in the past and was slammed again for violating Florida election law.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell bafflingly said on air that Snipes is a Republican and “hardly a Democratic official, or someone doing the bidding of the Democratic candidates there.”
14. WaPo Forced To Correct Nikki Haley Misquote
The Washington Post had to issue a correction after falsely attributing a quote about poverty to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
After multiple requests by Haley for WaPo to issue a correction, the paper admitted that the quote in question was actually said by The U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva.
15. Chris Cuomo Shares False Story About AR-15 Purchase
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo spread a false story claiming that a 20-year-old student was able to purchase an AR-15 rifle without going through a background check.
The story itself admitted that the student never actually finished filling out paperwork — which would trigger the background check — nor did he purchase the gun.
Cuomo doubled down on sharing the story, insisting that the “point” he was trying to make still stood.
16. Media Claims Trump Called The FBI A ‘Cancer’
President Donald Trump referred to corruption and bias within the FBI, particularly related to the Russia probe, as a “cancer” during a September interview with The Hill.
The media repeatedly misquoted the president and claimed he called the FBI itself “cancer,” despite clarification from the two people who interviewed him.
17. Rachel Maddow Accuses WH Of Editing Putin Tape
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow opened a show in July by insisting that the Trump administration edited a tape of the president’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki.
The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump pointed out that the error was made by reporters too and was due to a change “between the feed from the reporters and the feed from the translator.”
18. CNN’s Trump Tower Story Obliterated By Lanny Davis
CNN reported in July that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was prepared to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the president had knowledge in advance of a Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians.
But Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said in August that CNN’s reporting got “mixed up” and that Cohen had no information related to the Trump Tower meeting. Cohen said the same to Congress on two separate occasions.
CNN doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on its reporting, despite a series of issues with the report.
19. NBC’s Brian Williams Bungles Hit Piece About Trump And Dogs
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams — also a noted survivor of a helicopter attack during the Iraq war — thought he exposed the president for being a dog-hater in an August segment.
Williams claimed his team “launched an extensive web search” and only found one photo of President Donald Trump with a dog.
The Daily Caller revealed, with the help of a quick Google search, multiple photos of the president holding dogs.
20. WaPo Claims McSally Accuses Opponent Of Treason
The Washington Post reported during the 2018 midterm elections that Republican Arizona Senate candidate Martha McSally accused her Democratic opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, of treason.
A transcript of McSally’s comments reveals that she was actually knocking Sinema for excusing the treasonous actions of others.
“You said you had no problem with [Americans joining the Taliban],” McSally said. “Kyrsten, I want to ask right now whether you’re going to apologize to the veterans and me for saying it’s okay to commit treason?”
21. NPR: Donald Trump Jr. Committed Perjury
NPR published a report in November insisting that Donald Trump Jr. lied to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow because his statements conflicted with those of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
However, NPR failed to realize that the piece of Trump Jr.’s testimony they quoted was about a different project.
“Trump Jr.’s statements about work on a Trump Tower Moscow that ended in 2014 referred to negotiations with Aras Agalarov,” The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Chuck Ross explained. “Felix Sater, a businessman with links to Cohen and Russian officials, tried to make a Trump Tower Moscow happen in 2015.”
22. NBC News Misquotes Sen. Cassidy, Creates False Anti-Trump Narrative
NBC News published and aired a misquote of Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in December that suggested he was turning on President Donald Trump. The opposite was true.
NBC’s misquote made it seem that Cassidy was worried the president was involved in illegality related to hush payments to women he had affairs with. However, the full quote shows that Cassidy did not think the hush payments were crimes at all.
“The only question is then whether or not this so-called hush money is a crime. John Edwards obviously was prosecuted for the same thing and Justice Department failed,” Cassidy explained.
23. Time Magazine’s Family Separation Cover Featuring Crying Honduran Child
Time Magazine published an infamous cover in June that showed a Honduran child crying at the U.S. border, apparently after she had been separated from her mother. The image quickly became the face of the “issue of family separations at the border,” despite the fact that the child in question was never separated.
Later reports also revealed that, in contrast to common left-wing talking points, the mother and her child were not fleeing violence, and the mother had been previously deported from the U.S. In addition, the mother left three other children in Honduras and allegedly paid a smuggler to help her and her daughter cross the border illegally.
24. Mic Writer Claims Russian Spy Was In The Oval Office
Shortly after it was revealed that a Russian spy was attempting to infiltrate right-wing networks, Mic writer Emily Singer claimed that same Russian spy was present during an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov.
Singer claimed Russian spy Maria Butina was spotted in a photo of the meeting, citing the fact that she has red hair like the woman in the photo.
The woman in the photo is actually NSC staffer Cari Lutkins.
25. Lawrence O’Donnell Spreads Fake Lindsey Graham Quote
MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell misquoted Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in September to suggest that he was bashing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
O’Donnell claimed that Graham called Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “garbage,” but Graham’s actual quote reveals he was talking specifically about gang rape allegations.
“If you’re a gang rapist when you’re in high school, you don’t just let it go,” Graham said. “[Kavanaugh’s] been at the highest level of public service, under tremendous scrutiny, 6 FBI investigations, and we missed the sophomore and junior gang rapist.”
“We didn’t miss it. It’s a bunch of garbage,” Graham asserted.
26. Jennifer Rubin Makes False Accusation About GOP’s Kavanaugh Prosecutor
Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post’s “conservative” columnist, claimed that the prosecutor chosen by the GOP to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had previously worked with controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell was not “someone from Sheriff Joe’s operation” as Rubin claimed — the two worked in separate agencies. Mitchell was employed at the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, while Arpaio worked in the Sheriff’s Department.
27. Media Spreads Conspiracy Theories About Melania Post-Surgery
First lady Melania Trump took some time away from public life in June after undergoing kidney surgery, and the media quickly started speculating about her whereabouts.
The media elevated several bizarre claims about Melania, including an allegation that she had moved out of the White House and another that she was secretly recovering from plastic surgery.
Other reporters didn’t cite the conspiracies, but did suggest that something was amiss about Melania’s brief respite from the spotlight.
“The last time we caught a glimpse of her was on May 10,” CNN reporter Brian Stelter said. “There’s been a lot of questions about her surgery at Walter Reed and now her invisibility…how long does she have to be out of sight to make this a legitimate media story?”
28. New Yorker Publishes Kavanaugh Accusation With Zero Corroboration
The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow — generally known for their sharp reporting on sexual harassment — made a major blunder with their report on Deborah Ramirez’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Ramirez claimed Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face at a college party, but The New Yorker was unable to produce any firsthand witnesses or even confirm that Kavanaugh was at the party in question.
The New York Times even opted not to run the same allegation because they were unable to corroborate it. Ramirez herself admitted she had significant memory gaps about the incident and she told former classmates that she wasn’t even sure if Kavanaugh was the offender.
29. Daily Beast Claims Migrants In Caravan Don’t Have Diseases
The Daily Beast claimed that there is “zero evidence” that members of the migrant caravan were bringing HIV and TB into the United States.
The Tijuana Health Department reported a handful of cases of tuberculosis, HIV and chickenpox among the caravan. Officials with the Mexican state of Baja California disputed that there have been cases of tuberculosis, but confirmed that some migrants are carrying HIV and chickenpox.
30. AP Pins Immigrant Abuse On Trump Administration
The Associated Press published a report in June about abuse of child immigrants in the U.S., but did its best to bury the fact that the abuse primarily occurred under the Obama administration.
As this reporter noted at the time, “The article mentions President Donald Trump and his administration’s zero-tolerance policy at least four times in the first ten paragraphs, leaving the implicit suggestion that the Trump administration is responsible for the alleged abuse.”
The AP sneakily admitted in the 20th paragraph that the alleged abuse began in 2016 — during the Obama administration — but never bothered to mention Obama’s name in connection with the report.
31. Kavanaugh Clerk Flashed ‘White Power’ Symbol
Former Brett Kavanaugh clerk Zina Bash, who was sitting behind the Supreme Court nominee during his hearings, was accused of flashing a white supremacist symbol on camera.
The accusation stemmed from a video clip that showed Bash’s hand resting on her arm with the “OK sign,” a symbol that leftists have claimed actually signals “white power.”
Far from being a white supremacist, Bash is Mexican and Jewish and her grandparents were Holocaust survivors.
“The attacks today on my wife are repulsive,” Bash’s husband said. “Everyone tweeting this vicious conspiracy theory should be ashamed of themselves. We weren’t even familiar with the hateful symbol being attributed to her for the random way she rested her hand during a long hearing.”
32. Media Claims Obama Didn’t Separate Families At The Border
Several reporters claimed during the uproar over President Donald Trump’s family separations at the border that President Barack Obama never separated families.
However, reports from McClatchy and statements from former Obama administration officials revealed that, yes, Obama did separate some families who crossed the border illegally.
“ICE could not devise a safe way where men and children could be in detention together in one facility,” Leon Fresco, a deputy assistant attorney general under Obama, said. “It was deemed too much of a security risk.”