Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claimed Monday that "it's been confirmed by every [news] outlet" that President Donald Trump referred to fallen U.S. service members as "losers and suckers." Biden's assertion is false, given that not one person has gone on the record to any media outlet affirming or confirming that the president bad-mouthed America's war heroes.
What are the details?
"Of all the things that Trump has said and done, nothing is more offensive than the way he's spoken about many of you, and brave women and men who served the nation in uniform — those who have given their lives in service to this nation," Biden said during a speech in Wisconsin.
"It's been confirmed by every outlet that he referred to them as losers and suckers," the Democrat continued. "That's what Trump calls those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice."
BIDEN: “It’s been confirmed by every outlet” that Trump called fallen soldiers ‘losers & suckers.’ “I’ve dealt wit… https://t.co/wqhWp2s7yc— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) 1600719307.0
Early this month, The Atlantic published a disputed report citing four anonymous sources who claimed that President Trump referred to fallen U.S. service members as "losers" and "suckers" in discussions with senior administration officials during a trip to France in 2018.
The story blew up, and a few outlets, including Fox News and the Associated Press, claimed to have "confirmed" parts of the accounts described by The Atlantic while also citing anonymous sources. Weeks later, as of this writing, not one source has gone on the record in confirming the claims, which Trump vehemently denies.
Biden also acknowledged a day after The Atlantic's story broke that it was not confirmed, saying in a speech from Delaware, "If, what's written in The Atlantic is true, it's disgusting."
But the former vice president is now claiming the report has been confirmed by "every outlet," when in fact, it has not been confirmed by a single one — including The Atlantic itself.
As Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, the media has resorted to reporting rumors as fact.
After pointing out another so-called "confirmed" story from anonymous sources that turned out to be false, Greenwald writes:
Quite aside from this specific story about whether Trump loves The Troops, conflating the crucial journalistic concept of "confirmation" with "hearing the same idle gossip" or "unproven assertions" is a huge disservice. It is an instrument of propaganda, not reporting. And its use has repeatedly deceived rather than informed the public. Anyone who doubts that should review how it is that MSNBC and CBS both claimed to have "confirmed" a CNN report which turned out to be ludicrously and laughably false. Clearly, the term "confirmation" has lost its meaning in journalism.
Trump admin disputes account
Current and former Trump administration officials who were on the 2018 trip to France have disputed The Atlantic's account, including former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and former national security adviser John Bolton, who is now a frequent Trump critic and even wrote a book about his time in the administration.
Bolton told Fox News that the claims made in The Atlantic's story are "simply false."
Bolton later told The New York Times that he was present for the discussion when Trump purportedly made the disparaging comments about troops and reiterated that he did not hear any of the alleged remarks The Atlantic had reported, but he did acknowledge that the president could have made the remarks "later in the day or another time" when he was not present.
The day The Atlantic's story came out, President Trump tweeted, "I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES. This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!"
According to CBS News, he declared later that evening at a rally in Pennsylvania, "I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes. There is nobody that respects them more. So, I just think it's a horrible, horrible thing."