In a March 11 update to a story originally published in January, the paper acknowledged its story featured quotes that weren’t actually said by Trump during a December 2020 conversation with an investigator working from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. A recording of the phone call was recently released. (See embedded file below.)
“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,” the Jeff Bezos-owned paper, known for its anti-Trump slant, stated in a correction.
“The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump,” it added.
No apology was included.
The same reporter who wrote the original story, Amy Gardner, wrote a new story about the recording being released.
“The Washington Post reported on the substance of Trump’s Dec. 23 call in January, describing him saying that Watson should ‘find the fraud’ and that she would be a ‘national hero,’ based on an account from Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state, whom Watson briefed on his comments,” Gardner wrote, referring to Frances Watson, the chief investigator for Raffensperger. “In fact, he did not use those precise words.”
“Rather, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize Fulton County, where she would find ‘dishonesty,’ he said. He also said, ‘whatever you can do, Frances, it would be—it’s a great thing. It’s an important thing for the country. So important. You’ve no idea. So important. And I very much appreciate it.’”
Fulton County was rife with issues during the 2020 election and its aftermath, according to Raffensperger and officials from his office.
Raffensperger’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment regarding whether Fuchs leaked false details of the call.
The Washington Post didn’t respond to a request for more information, such as whether it’s reviewing its policies on citing sources and whether it will refrain from using the source that fed it falsified information.
CNN, The Associated Press, Reuters, ABC News, and NBC News were among the others that reported the falsified quotes. They all cited a single anonymous source. None responded to requests for comment. Only CNN had updated its article as of March 15, adding an editor’s note that said an earlier version of the story “presented paraphrasing of the President’s comments to the Georgia elections investigator as direct quotes.”
“The story has been updated following the discovery of an audio recording of the call,” CNN stated.
Other outlets, including Business Insider and Vox, published stories that relied on other reports about the call, such as the Washington Post piece. And Democratic members of Congress used the falsified quotes during their effort to convict Trump of a charge of incitement of insurrection in February.
Critics said the situation illustrated severe problems with the media.
“This kind of mistake is beyond serious. There’s zero accountability in major corporate media anymore, yet they continually insist they’re the ones holding the line on the truth. And always remember what should scare you about the media is what doesn’t get exposed,'” Mark Hemingway, senior writer at RealClearInvestigations, wrote in a tweet.
Others downplayed what happened.
“Corrections are good! what would be corrupt and unaccontable [sic] is to not put out corrections when we get things wrong,” argued Hayes Brown, a writer with MSNBC.
Watson, an investigator with Raffensperger’s office, took the call from Trump on Dec. 23, 2020.
Watson said she was surprised by the call but didn’t feel Trump put any pressure on her. Her team and Georgia Bureau of Investigation workers didn’t find any wrongdoing during an audit.
She told WSB-TV that she recorded the call for posterity.
“That probably will never happen again in my lifetime,” she said.
Trump later called Raffensperger himself in December 2020, asking for the Republican official to investigate voter fraud claims. Raffensperger suggested his office released audio of that call, as he panned the allegations and said it was clear Democrat Joe Biden won Georgia.