National News

Trump Escalates a Dispute With The Wall Street Journal Over a Quotation

Posted January 14, 2018 6:02 p.m. EST

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump on Sunday morning ratcheted up a dispute with The Wall Street Journal, accusing the newspaper of purposely misquoting him as saying in an interview that he has a good relationship with the leader of North Korea.

In two tweets from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, the president applied a familiar denigrating term — “fake news” — to a Journal report Thursday that said Trump had boasted during an interview: “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”

Trump insisted that he had actually started his sentence with the contraction “I’d,” not “I,” which would change the meaning from a surprising boast of an existing relationship into a prediction that he could have a good relationship with the dictator if he wanted it.

“The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them ‘I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un’ (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn’t say that. I said ‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!”

Trump’s attack came hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, posted on Twitter what she called the “official audio showing WSJ misquoting @POTUS.” She also posted an image with the words “FAKE NEWS” in a bright red banner and saying: “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. FAKE NEWS IS AT IT AGAIN. FALSELY QUOTING PRESIDENT TRUMP.”

Later Sunday, Sanders wrote on Twitter that the White House had first requested a correction from The Journal on Friday morning, the day after the interview.

The Journal responded to the president’s accusations by posting its own audio recording and a statement standing by its understanding of what he had said. “We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported,” the statement said.

It is difficult to tell from the two audio clips whether the president’s complaint has merit.

It is also unclear what Trump meant by saying that the White House records “conversations with reporters.” It is standard for White House communications staff members to make audio recordings of interviews with the president, though they do not publicly release a transcript of the interview.

Such sessions are usually also taped by the news organization for the purpose of getting accurate quotations and creating an accurate transcript.

The Journal has not been targeted as often as other news organizations by the president’s “fake news” campaign against coverage that he does not like. He recently promised that he would issue “fake news awards” to news organizations.

On Jan. 2, Trump tweeted that he would announce “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR” within days, adding: “Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!”

A few days later, Trump delayed what he called the “Fake News Awards,” saying that awards for “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media” would be announced Wednesday. The White House did not explain the delay, and officials would not say whether Trump would announce his awards on Twitter or in another venue.