By:
March 16, 2021

The Washington Post has added a correction to its story from January that claimed then-President Donald Trump told the chief investigator of the Georgia secretary of state’s office to “find the fraud” in the state’s election and she would become a “national hero.” (This is not the same story as the Post’s blockbuster story of Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.)

Last week, The Wall Street Journal obtained the recording of the phone call from Trump to the investigator. In it, Trump did ask the investigator to search for voter fraud and said she would be “praised,” but he didn’t say some of the words verbatim as the Post reported.

That led to the Post adding this correction to the top of that story:

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 recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find “dishonesty” there. He also told her that she had “the most important job in the country right now.” A story about the recording can be found here. The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.

As corrections go, this is a chunky one.

Yes, Trump’s call still was improper. However, quotes attributed to the president of the United States — and pretty charged quotes at that — were, in fact, not said at all. It’s true that sometimes news outlets are given bad information by a source, but that’s when it is critical for a news outlet to be absolutely sure the source’s information is correct. In this case, the Post story was picked up by other news organizations, which relied on the Post for providing accurate information.

This doesn’t destroy the Post’s reputation or credibility, as some would have you believe. Nor does it erode the “mainstream media.”

But, it was not good either.

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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