Less than a year after former President Donald Trump left office, it turns out a lot of the narratives pushed by corporate media and politicians have turned out to be exactly what Trump said they were: “fake news.”
Here are some of the biggest anti-Trump theories, debunked.
Trump ordered protesters to be tear-gassed for a photo-op
“Just an unbelievable use of military and police force to clear out Lafayette Park of protesters for a photo op at St John’s Episcopal Church,” CNN’s Chief Domestic Correspondent Jim Acosta tweeted on June 1, 2020.
Just an unbelievable use of military and police force to clear out Lafayette Park of protesters for a photo op at St John’s Episcopal Church. pic.twitter.com/ue7eCb6ZEM
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 1, 2020
“He’s using the American military against the American people,” Biden tweeted in part.
He’s using the American military against the American people.
He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets.
For a photo.
For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him. But I mean it when I say this: we can only do it together. https://t.co/G1yE67q9Nz
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 2, 2020
Democrats Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Adam Schiff also pushed the false claim.
Despite the emotional pleas from then-presidential candidate Biden and Acosta, it turns out the claim that Trump purposely had demonstrators cleared from a park for a photo-op was false.
A report released Wednesday by Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt found park police who used flash-bangs and other non-lethal crowd control munitions during the June 1 incident were given the go-ahead to do so before anyone knew Trump planned to walk over. Greenblatt said the park was actually being cleared so that anti-scale fencing could be installed, NBC News reported.
“Moreover, the evidence established that relevant (Park Police) officials had made those decisions and had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential presidential visit to the park, which occurred later that day,” Greenblatt wrote. “As such, we determined that the evidence did not support a finding that the (Park Police) cleared the park on June 1, 2020, so that then President Trump could enter the park.”
The ‘lab leak’ theory was a conspiracy
Trump frequently mentioned the coronavirus could have possibly escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with other politicians echoing similar statements. The theory has recently been returned to credibility, prompting a flurry of corrections.
Media outlets originally crushed the theory, labeling it a “conspiracy” and “debunked.” CNN ran a headline that “Trump contradicts US intel community by claiming he’s seen evidence coronavirus originated in Chinese lab.”
The Washington Post ran a story titled, “Was the new coronavirus accidentally released from a Wuhan lab? It’s doubtful.” Another story was titled “President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to push unsubstantiated Wuhan lab theory on novel coronavirus origins.”
The Post’s Senior Reporter Aaron Blake recently admitted, however, that “mainstream media overcorrected when it came to one particular theory from Trump and his allies: that the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than naturally.”
Other members of the “follow the science” crowd also admitted they chose not to cover or actively debunked the theory largely because Trump pushed it. (RELATED: ‘Lunatic Conspiracy Theories’: Here’s How Liberal Fact Checkers Treated People Who Supported Lab Leak Theory)
“It got jumbled up together with some of the more crazy aspects of Trump, and scientists recoiled against that and went in favor of the theory that COVID-19 had emerged out of a natural process versus a lab escape,” J. Stephen Morrison, Center for Strategic and International Studies said in an NPR interview.
Trump ignored Russian bounties on US soldiers
Biden slammed Trump for allegedly doing nothing about allegations that Russia put bounties on the heads of American troops.
“Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of International law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,” Biden said, according to The New York Times, which first reported the story.
Vice President Kamala Harris also pushed the story in October.
“[There was] Public reporting that Russia had bounties on the heads of American soldiers,” Harris said. “And you know what a bounty is? Somebody puts a price on your head and they will pay it if you are killed. And Donald Trump had talked at least six times to Vladimir Putin and never brought up the subject. Joe Biden would never do that.”
Trump said he didn’t discuss the alleged intelligence because there was little evidence to support the claims.
“I have never discussed it with Putin,” Trump said, according to CNN. “I would, I have no problem with it.” The Washington Post gave him a fact check rating of four Pinnochios for calling the story a “hoax.”
But top generals have corroborated Trump’s claim that there was little evidence.
“It just had not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told NBC News.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper also denied getting briefed on the situation, according to NPR.
“To the best of my recollection, I have not received a briefing that included the word ‘bounty’,” Esper reportedly said. “If it was a credible report, a credible, corroborated report, that used those words, certainly it would have been brought to my attention by chain of command, by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and others, for action.”
The NYT later released a report noting a lack of evidence.
Biden himself, who assailed Trump for not sanctioning Russia over the allegations, “stopped short of inflicting sanctions on any Russian officials over the suspected bounties, making clear that the available evidence about what happened – primarily what Afghan detainees told interrogators – continues to fall short of definitely proving the C.I.A’s assessment that Russia likely paid money to reward attacks.”
Trump told Georgia officials to ‘find the fraud’
The Washington Post was forced to issue a lengthy correction in March that Trump did not tell Chief Investigator of Georgia’s Secretary of State Office Frances Watson to “find the fraud” and told her she would be “a national here” if she did.
“Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia Secretary of State released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator,” The Post said. “The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigate to ‘find the fraud’ or say that she would be ‘a national hero’ if she did so.”
Trump said white supremacists were ‘fine people’
Biden launched his presidential campaign in 2019 with a video that mischaracterized comments made by Trump in which he allegedly said there were “fine people” on both sides at the deadly Charlottesville rally. CNN commentator Keith Boykin claimed later that Trump had a “long history of inciting his supporters to violence,” claiming he “saw it with the 2017 Charlottesville march of ‘very fine people.’”
We saw it with the violent 2015 Trump campaign rallies.
We saw it with the 2017 Charlottesville march of “very fine people.”
We saw it with the armed 2020 Michigan state capitol protests against Governor Whitmer.
Trump has a long history of inciting his supporters to violence. pic.twitter.com/uYaAdoVdjl
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 11, 2021
Trump did no such thing. RealClearPolitics fact checked Trump’s statement, noting his comment is often taken out of context.
Here’s what Trump actually said at the press conference in question:
“Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” Trump said, before going further to clarify himself.
“I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”
Trump referred to illegal immigrants as ‘animals’
In 2018 Trump referred to members of the deadly and notorious MS-13 gang as “animals.”
“We have people coming into the country … You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals,” Trump said when asked by someone about MS-13.
Schumer criticized the comments, saying “when all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren’t ‘animals,’ and these people aren’t either.” Democratic Nevada Sen. Cortez Masto said Trump was attacking immigrants more generally.
.@realDonaldTrump, would you speak that way about your ancestors? Let me tell you something: When you attack immigrants, you’re attacking me. You’re attacking my grandfather who crossed the Rio Grande to pursue the American Dream. RT to tell Pres. Trump you stand with immigrants! https://t.co/nPeI4mqBdA
— Senator Cortez Masto (@SenCortezMasto) May 17, 2018
CNN tweeted the quote along with the comment: “During a meeting with public officials who oppose California’s sanctuary policies, Pres. Trump criticized US immigration laws,” appearing to claim Trump’s quote was in reference to all immigrants.
The outlet later issued a follow-up tweet that Trump’s remarks “were in response to comments about members of MS-13 and other undocumented immigrants who are deported for committing crimes.”
“We’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people — these are animals.” During a meeting with public officials who oppose California’s sanctuary policies, Pres. Trump criticized US immigration laws https://t.co/2KcrIhMnyR pic.twitter.com/SsmCdaofHb
— CNN (@CNN) May 17, 2018
The Associated Press issued a tweet on the same day noting they had “deleted a tweet from late Wednesday on Trump’s ‘animals’ comment about immigrants because it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.”
The NYT tweeted “Trump lashed out at undocumented immigrants during a White House meeting, calling those trying to breach the country’s borders ‘animals’.” The NYT later issued a tweet that Trump’s comments were used to “describe dangerous criminals trying to cross into he U.S. illegally.”
Trump ‘flat-out lied’ when he said his campaign was wiretapped
CNN reported in 2017 that Trump “flat-out lied” when he claimed the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower before his presidential victory, with CNN citing the Justice Department for proof.
“Trump, for his part, has offered zero evidence to back up his initial claim because, as we now know conclusively, there was no evidence. To sump up: The current President of the United States flat-out lied about the then-sitting president issuing a wiretap of his campaign headquarters.”
The outlet issued a correction two years later and confirmed that former campaign manager Paul Manafort was wiretapped under a secret court order before and after the election. CNN noted their original report was contradictory, however. Manafort did have an office in Trump Tower, though it’s unclear whether the surveillance took place there, CNN reported.
Trump removed MLK Jr. bust
Just hours into Trump’s presidency, TIME White House Correspondent Zeke Miller reported Trump removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr., out of the Oval Office. Turns out the bust was “obscured by a door and an agent.” Miller subsequently issued numerous apologies for the error.