Corrections vs. Condemnations: Coverage of Trump’s Rally After the Pittsburgh Shooting

Last week at a campaign rally held in Illinois, President Trump spoke about the Pittsburgh shooting that had occurred the same day. He condemned the act of violence against the Jewish community and explained the decision to go forward with the rally in the wake of the attack.

“And with what happened early today — that horrible, horrible attack in Pittsburgh — I was saying maybe I should cancel both this and that,” Trump said, “and then I said to myself, I remember Dick Grasso. He headed up the New York Stock Exchange on September 11. And the New York Stock Exchange was open the following day.”

Bloomberg later reported an error in Trump’s statement that the NYSE opened on Monday, September 17th, not September 12th as he had said. This is a prime example of the ways in which media have increasingly served as a check on false statements.

Media coverage on the event showed clear framing differences, the most drastic gaps occurring between Fox News and CNN.

In their article, Fox News zeroed in on Trump’s condemnation of the shooter, stating, “The president said, reiterating remarks he’d made about the episode earlier in the day. ‘It must be confronted and condemned everywhere it rears its ugly head. We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate.’” There was no mention of Trump’s 9/11 error, only a note that, “Trump said he’d weighed the idea of canceling the rally and an earlier event in Indiana in light of the ‘horrible’ shooting.”

In contrast, CNN reported the story with the headline “Trump falsely says NYSE opened day after Sept. 11 attacks to justify holding rally after Pittsburgh shooting,” ultimately focusing on this one sole error. They wrote how Trump “compared his decision to continue with the rally to reopening the NYSE after the September 11 attacks, something that did not happen.” While the article ended with the fact that “Trump also used his rally to condemn the shooting,” it was a very brief shift from the main idea of the article, unlike how FOX covered the story.

Such a drastic difference in these two frames of coverage is significant because the information itself is skewed one way or another. This allows for readers to be only half-informed if they only receive the information on the occurrence from one news article. CNN’s sole focus on the false statement and Fox’s sole focus on Trump’s condemnation of the shooter is what further creates a divide among public opinion in terms of what readers choose to base their knowledge on.

The Washington Post and Politico took stances similar to CNN in their own coverage of the event, portraying the President’s appearance in a negative light. The Post extended their fact-checking of President Trump beyond the NYSE remark, reporting on other false claims made at the rally, like those about tax cuts, pre-existing conditions and other issues. Politico also reported a broader story, noting that, “The president delivered few of his trademark blistering attacks on his political rivals or adversarial groups during the rally.” Politico also commented on the fact that Trump had become more “diplomatic” in his statements after recent incidents of bombs being mailed to high-level Democratic officials.

Very few media outlets chose to cover the event in its entirety.  Fox was the only network that chose to cover the rally and Trump’s statements there in a positive light, but differences in coverage occurred among CNN, The Washington Post and Politico as well. CNN’s report was more narrowly focused, while Politico and The Washington Post chose to delve deeper into the analysis behind Trump’s statements as a whole. CNN’s rather superficial report pales in comparison to the information conveyed among other news outlets. As a whole, each outlet’s style of reporting created a rather divided consensus on the events that transpired at the rally.

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