The mainstream media on Tuesday misconstrued a seemingly innocent story about a historic White House tree, bashing first lady Melania Trump in the process.
CNN reported exclusively Tuesday that the historic Jackson Magnolia tree on the White House’s south lawn is scheduled to be torn down this week. The tree has been in place for nearly 200 years.
Specialists from the United States National Arboretum were recently brought in to analyze the tree’s health. According to CNN, the specialists determined the ailing tree needed to be taken down immediately, despite exhaustive efforts to preserve it.
According to CNN, the specialists determined:
The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.
Given their assessment and weighing the decades-long effort to preserve the tree as well as the safety hazard the tree presents to White House visitors, the first lady ultimately signed off on the decision to remove the tree.
The first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN:
Mrs. Trump personally reviewed the reports from the United States National Arboretum and spoke at length with her staff about exploring every option before making the decision to remove a portion of the Magnolia tree.
After reviewing the reports, she trusted that every effort had been made to preserve the historic tree and was concerned about the safety of visitors and members of the press who are often standing right in front of the tree during Marine One lifts.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, first ladies traditionally managed the decorations inside the White House and in the gardens surrounding it.
However, that’s not how sevearl media outlets presented the story to its readers.
What did they report?
Headlines from various outlets read:
- Slate: “Melania Trump Orders Removal of 200-Year-Old Tree From White House Lawn”
- Newsweek: “Melania Trump orders removal of near-200-year-old tree from White House”
- Raw Story: “Melania Trump orders removal of 200-year-old tree — the oldest at the White House”
- Elite Daily: “A White House Tree Is Being Cut Down At Melania Trump’s Decision”
- The Independent: “Melania Trump orders White House tree from 1800s to be cut down”
The Huffington Post was a bit more fair with its headline thanks to a three-word qualifier at the end: “Melania Trump Orders Large Portion Of Historic White House Tree Removed Due To Decay.“
However, the Huffington Post Politics Twitter account was not as charitable:
— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPostPol) December 26, 2017
At any rate, the point remains: Trump herself did not simply order the tree to be removed, as many of the headlines make it seem.
One of the story’s reporters, CNN’s Kate Bennett, was quick to call out at least one outlet for its “grossly unfair and, quite frankly, inaccurate” headline:
wow this hed is grossly unfair and, quite frankly, inaccurate https://t.co/zHXTV37bAG
— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) December 26, 2017