President Donald Trump recently took credit for the words "fake news." He uses the two words often in reference to legitimate news from legitimate news organizations. Before Trump ran for president, fake news applied to propaganda and hoaxes that circulated. Now, what was once reserved for yellow journalism is attributed to anything Trump perceives as negative towards him. If the news about him is bad, it's fake, regardless of whether it is true.
A case in point: Trump was on Twitter last week responding to indictments against his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and an associate of Manafort's. "Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus," Trump tweeted.
"Crooked Hillary" and "the Dems" have been the focus. That is all we've heard for years. In fact, it is safe to say Trump is where he is, in part, because of such a focus. Trump has ties to Manafort, so strike up the "Crooked Hillary" tune and blame the "fake news media."
The Justice Department indicted Manafort on 12 counts, primarily money laundering and false statements, none of which involved his work for Trump. The oldest of the allegations date back to activities that began in 2006, but three occurred in 2016 and 2017.
Trump chose Manafort to manage the Republican National Convention in March 2016. In a press release announcing the hiring, Trump praised Manafort as "a great asset and an important addition" in consolidating the support Trump won during the primary season, according to politifact.com. Trump promoted Manafort on May 19 to campaign chairman and chief strategist. Manafort's time with Trump lasted six months. He resigned Aug. 19.
There is nothing fake about Manafort's ties to Trump. He hired him. They worked together. But, now that Manafort is in hot water, the news is fake.
"Instead of fabricated content, Trump uses the term to describe news coverage that is unsympathetic to his administration and his performance, even when the news reports are accurate," Politifact says.
The political fact check website says that Trump is so taken with the phrase "fake news," that he’s mentioned it at least 153 separate times in interviews, on Twitter and in speeches, according to a count compiled by Politifact, which has a truth-o-meter that rates political comments as truth, half truth, false and "pants on fire," as in "liar, liar, pants on fire."
Back to Trump being the originator of "fake news." As he chatted Wednesday with Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs at the White House, Trump bragged about coming up with "some pretty good names for people," and then he took credit for coining the term "fake news."
"I've really started this whole 'fake news' thing," he said. "Now they've turned it around and then, now they're calling, you know, stories put out — by Facebook. And they're fake."
The concept of fake news pre-dates Trump — by far. A Google search shows the Virginian-Pilot newspaper had a headline with the words "fake news" back in 1902. The story described concerns in Norfolk about "exaggerated and untruthful reports." The term was on the cover of TV Guide, referencing a story in 1992. Journalist Craig Silverman used the term "fake news" to apply to made-up stories that are designed to deceive you in 2014. He later used the words when appearing on CNN's "Reliable Sources."
Trump reportedly first tweeted the words "fake news" on Dec. 10, 2016, but he began using the words regularly in January. So, it would appear Trump's claims that he is the originator "fake news" is ... well, fake. Or, in the context of a truth-o-meter, false — perhaps even worthy of a "pants on fire" rating.
Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SheaWilson7.