Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece detailing a six-minute call — with audio — between then-president Donald Trump and the Georgia secretary of state’s chief investigator, Frances Watson. At the time, Watson was conducting a forensic audit of 2020 mail-in ballots in a few Georgia counties.
This week, the Journal’s reporting precipitated the Washington Post to offer a correction to their initial story that went like so:
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.
There is, of course, a crucial difference between a president instructing an investigator to “find the fraud” so she can become “a national hero” and a president telling an investigator he believes she will find fraud if she looks. To contend that Trump was “misquoted” or that the quotes were “misattributed” is to critically understate the dishonesty in the original story. Indeed, it is fair to say that the quotes were fabricated by someone, not misattributed, and then they were published by every major news outlet in the country as a verified fact. Even the Post’s headline for its follow-up — “Recording reveals details of Trump call to Georgia’s chief elections investigator” — intimates that the tape merely helps in updating the initial reporting rather than completely decimating it.
The single anonymous source used for the story seems to be Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state, whose office was under pressure from the president at time. Fuchs still claims that the story accurately portrayed the spirit of the conversation that was relayed to him, maybe by Watson. The tape tells a different story.
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