Watchdog: Media ‘Twist Every Story’ into ‘Narrative Tying the President to Russia’

MRC's Gainor notes how press, obsessing over Trump-Putin at G-20, dismissed Obama-Medvedev hot-mic moment

President Donald Trump lashed out at the “fake news” media for pushing what he termed a “sick” story Tuesday night about his “secret dinner” with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, that previously had been unreported.

The White House confirmed Tuesday evening, after reports began circulating, that Trump had, in fact, spoken with Putin at the dinner held for the world leaders and heads of state gathered at the summit, as well as their spouses. During the meal, Putin was placed next to first lady Melania Trump. As the dinner drew to a close, the White House confirmed that Trump approached Putin and his wife. Trump and Putin met for the first time as sitting presidents earlier in the G-20 summit for over two hours during a highly anticipated meeting.

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But because the interaction with Putin at the dinner hadn’t been previously disclosed to the U.S. press, the mainstream media latched onto the meeting and promoted it as further evidence in the narrative alleging that collusion existed between the Russian government and Trump’s associates to throw the 2016 presidential election in his favor.

“Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’ All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening. “The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!”

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The White House’s statement noted, “During the course of the dinner, all the leaders circulated throughout the room and spoke with one another freely.”

“President Trump spoke with many leaders during the course of the evening. As the dinner was concluding, President Trump went over to Mrs. Trump, where he spoke briefly with President Putin,” the statement continued. “It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a President’s duties, to interact with world leaders.”

But the media appeared to read something “sinister” into the meeting that took place at the G-20 summit dinner, and theories abounded speculating about what the two world leaders could have been discussing and how the second discussion signified an unusually friendly relationship between the two presidents.

“President Trump has a point. The American news media have been trying to twist every story and non-story into a narrative tying the president to Russia,” Dan Gainor, the vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center (MRC), told LifeZette in an email.

“Yet when President Obama was caught telling Russian President Medvedev that he’d have ‘more flexibility’ after the election, it was nothing,” Gainor continued, noting that Obama was caught on a hot mic promising “flexibility” to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on contentious issues after Obama’s re-election in 2012.

“And the news media did a huge part of Obama’s PR job mocking [2012 Republican presidential nominee] Mitt Romney when he said during the 2012 campaign that Russia was a threat,” Gainor added. “Now that it’s a Republican in the White House, suddenly every bottle of vodka is an issue of national security.”

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MRC performed a study in late June that found the mainstream media outlets ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News devoted more than 50 percent of their coverage over a five-week period between May and June covering the ongoing Trump-Russia narrative.

“The Russia story got 353 minutes of coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC in five weeks. The economy and jobs got five minutes. Trump’s top initiative gets five minutes. That shows the media spin,” Gainor noted. “CNN is worse. When Donald Trump Jr.’s emails came out, CNN’s ‘New Day’ spent 93 percent of its show on them. To CNN, there is no other news in a world of 7.5 billion people. It’s only Trump, and the network is on the attack every single time.”

But the media were focused on the unscheduled meeting between Trump and Putin at the dinner.

“Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care,” Ian Bremmer, president of the Washington-based research and consulting firm Eurasia Group, told The New York Times.

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].