Five times Donald Trump used 'fake news' to back up his most outrageous claims

Jack Evans
President Obama and President-elect Trump during a transition planning meeting  - AFP or licensors

The United States has been forced to issue a groveling apology after Donald Trump's press secretary claimed that Barack Obama asked British intelligence to spy on Trump Towers, citing a Fox News report as evidence. 

"Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command - he didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice - he used GCHQ," said Sean Spicer, Mr Trump's press secretary. 

GCHQ, the British security agency, immediately issued a rare and strongly worded rebuttal, which branded the claims "ridiculous."

An apology was then issued directly by Sean Spicer, the press secretary, and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser. 

But it is not the first time Mr Trump and his most senior staff have relied on factually inaccurate or misleading news reports to justify themselves. 

Here are the five times Donald Trump relied on 'fake news' to back up some of his most dubious claims. 

Swedish terror 'invention' - Fox News

On February 18, Mr Trump was accused of inventing a terror attack after he urged his supporters to "look at what's happening in Sweden."

During a speech which linked migration in Europe to terror attacks, Mr Trump appeared to suggest that the country had become the latest victim of extremists.

"We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.”

Whereas several terror attacks have occurred in Germany, there was no attack in Sweden on the night in question. 

It later emerged that Fox News ran a news item which blamed raising crime rates in Sweden on migrants. This appears to have been Mr Trump's source for his claims. 

'Three million illegal alien voters' - Infowars

Shortly after his landslide election victory, Mr Trump tweeted: “In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

This prompted much head-scratching in newsrooms as to where exactly Mr Trump had gotten this alarming figure from. 

A brief survey of news stories published around the same time period reveals the source appears to have been Infowars, the conspiracy theory website.

  It ran a piece headlined "three million votes in presidential election cast by illegal aliens," two weeks before Mr Trump's tweet. 

'Birther movement' - Infowars

Mr Trump first questioned whether Obama was American in 2011.

In 2012, he tweeted: “An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.”

He didn’t recant until 2016, saying “President Obama was born in the United States — period.’’ Even then he blamed the Clinton campaign for spreading the conspiracy.

Mr Trump appears to have digested a large number of Infowars articles which spread the conspiracy. Alex Jones, a radio host and founder of Infowars.com, was one of the "birther" movement's key backers. 

Politico traced the original rumour back to Andy Martin, “a perennial Illinois political candidate and serial litigant”, who first circulated it in 2004.

Initial wiretapping claim - Fox News 

It all began when Trump tweeted “just found out Obama had my phone ‘wiretapped’ in Trump Tower”.

Then, in an interview with Fox News, he cited a report by the channel's Bret Baier as evidence : “I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous, where he was talking about certain, very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping. I said ‘Wait a minute, there's a lot of wiretapping being talked about.’”

GCHQ branded as “absolutely ridiculous” claims by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that the intelligence agency helped former President Obama ‘wiretap’ Trump.

'Chinese invented climate change' - various 

Trump has tweeted that China invented climate change to “make US manufacturing non-competitive” and that "It's really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!"

Fox News regularly runs stories alleging that the Obama administration fabricated evidence of climate change.

Infowars in January ran a piece with the headline: 

He may have also been inspired by Martin Durkin’s documentary “The Great Global Warming Scandal”, in which man-made climate change is called “the biggest scam of modern times.”

 

 

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