After the Washington Post claimed that Press Secretary Sean Spicer was “hiding in bushes” to avoid questions from reporters about FBI Director James Comey’s firing, the paper has once again had to admit that they published fake news.
In an article titled “After Trump fired Comey, White House staff scrambled to explain why” by Jenna Johnson, she made the spectacular claim that Spicer had actually hid in bushes to avoid questions from the Washington elite media.
— Mike Signorile (@MSignorile) May 10, 2017
“After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes near these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged,” Johnson wrote.
The claim went rapidly viral, the latest bit of gossip to paint the White House as being run by a bunch of hapless nitwits.
Democracy dies in the bushes.
— Tasneem Raja (@tasneemraja) May 10, 2017
Hiding in the bushes, Spicer finally took reporters' Qs last night for 10 min — mostly just referring them to DOJ https://t.co/6sW55325LH
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) May 10, 2017
this gif is overused, but in light of sean spicer in the bushes…. pic.twitter.com/FnLfVL1QYK
— marisa kabas (@MarisaKabas) May 10, 2017
Like so many of these stories, the claim ended up being false.
Hours later, the story was updated.
This story has been updated to more precisely describe Spicer's location near White House bushes on Tuesday night https://t.co/kRwAq4lLeo
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 11, 2017
“EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”
Essentially, Spicer was standing outside.
The countless articles and viral tweets citing Johnson have not all been updated, however — and this is how fake news is born.
Despite being one of the leading organizations against “fake news,” the legacy paper seems to have a problem with getting their facts straight.
For example, in January, the paper published an alarming story falsely claiming that Russian hackers had penetrated the US power grid through a Vermont utility.
The headline of the story declared, “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to US electrical grid security, officials say.” But the story was a complete fabrication. The article, which sourced unnamed officials, was rapidly debunked as officials on record stated that there was no evidence that the Russian government hacked or targeted the utility.
Not only was there no penetration of the US power grid by Russia, there was no penetration of the grid by anyone.
Perhaps the Post is correct, and “fake news” is a serious problem. To begin cleaning it up, maybe they should start in their own newsroom.