During a Fox News town hall at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, President Trump answered a question from a voter with a historical comparison. “I’m greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen. The closest would be that gentleman right up there,” he contended, pointing to the statue of Lincoln behind him. “They always said nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse. You’re there, you see those press conferences, they come at me with questions that are disgraceful.”
In context, the quote “I believe I am treated worse” was very clearly in reference to the press. A handful of journalists did their job correctly, and posted accurate reports of Trump’s claim on Twitter.
In response to a retired nurse who supports him but urges him to end bullying of the press, Pres Trump, says he faces a more hostile press than any predecessor. With the statue of Lincoln over his shoulder, Trump said he believes he's treated worse by the press than was Lincoln.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) May 4, 2020
JUST IN: Trump says he's been treated worse than Lincoln by the press https://t.co/OjT9hvNZYI pic.twitter.com/qpFYFXVv18
— The Hill (@thehill) May 4, 2020
Pres. Trump references Lincoln to say he has been treated worse than him by the media.
"I believe I am treated worse." pic.twitter.com/Hw6qEeBCNg
— Haleigh Hoffman (@HaleighHoffman) May 4, 2020
“I believe I am treated worse,” Trump says of how reporters treated Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial
— Matt Berman (@Mr_Berman) May 4, 2020
It’s not that hard. Plenty of other journalists, however, stripped the quote out of its context, mocking and criticizing Trump for comparing himself to a president who was assassinated. This is an easy case study in the bad faith reporting that gives Trump legitimate reason to complain about the media’s intensely unfair coverage of him.
On its own, “They always said nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse,” is, indeed, a laughable claim given Lincoln’s untimely death. But it’s completely different than what Trump said, which was very specifically that he believes the press treats him worse than the press treated Lincoln. To imply otherwise is to misinform the public. Apart from being false, it’s also just completely unnecessary.
As evidenced by the tweets collected below, a long list of media members misreported the information. If done unintentionally, it was sloppy. If done intentionally, it was dishonest. Either way, there’s no good explanation.
“They always said Lincoln — nobody got treated worse than Lincoln,” President Trump said at the Lincoln Memorial. “I believe I am treated worse.” pic.twitter.com/5HIHZuPOie
— Matt Viser (@mviser) May 4, 2020
'Lincoln was assassinated': Disgust follows Trump's claim he is treated 'worse than Lincoln'https://t.co/yodfAapsCR
— Raw Story (@RawStory) May 4, 2020
Video of President Trump, sitting at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial, saying is he being treated worse than President Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated after freeing enslaved people across America. https://t.co/PHBVFHpCox
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) May 4, 2020
An elementary school teacher who tells him that she really supports him and prays for him asks him to stop being a bully and stop rambling and to let go of his negative behaviors.
Trump replies by saying he’s been treated worse than Abraham Lincoln.
I am not making this up.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) May 4, 2020
Trump tells Fox town hall he’s treated worse than Lincoln was
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) May 4, 2020
Trump says he was treated worse than …[checks notes] Lincoln.
— Jackie Kucinich (@JFKucinich) May 4, 2020
Trump says on Fox that he believes he’s been treated “worse” than Lincoln
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 4, 2020
"They always say no one was treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse." – President Donald Trump.
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) May 4, 2020
Trump says Lincoln was treated badly, but:
"I believe I am treated worse."
LINCOLN WAS SHOT IN THE HEAD
— S.V. Dáte (@svdate) May 4, 2020
“I was treated worse than Lincoln” says Trump at the feet of a guy who was literally assassinated. pic.twitter.com/otAU7yNcFE
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) May 4, 2020
Nothing speaks to Fox News' failure to even pretend to be a credible "news source" more than hearing to Donald Trump claim he's been treated worse than Lincoln and not asking a follow-up on that one.
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) May 4, 2020
The Lincoln Memorial is one of the nation’s most hallowed sites. It honors the president who freed slaves and united the country, and was host to civil rights history. Tonight Trump is staging a “big show” inside the memorial and complaining he’s treated worse than Lincoln.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 4, 2020
Trump says he's been treated worse than Lincoln. Anyone want to explain while he's at the Lincoln Memorial how that ended?
— Alan Fisher (@AlanFisher) May 4, 2020
And then Trump responded, while sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial, that he has been treated much worse than Abraham Lincoln, who was shot in the head https://t.co/fXNqxUUup2
— Sanjana Karanth (@sanjanakaranth) May 4, 2020
"They always say no one was treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.” Trump says in front of the Lincoln Memorial minutes after he suggested schools need to reopen and that older teachers or those with health problems such as diabetes had to stay away.
— Scott Waldman (@scottpwaldman) May 4, 2020
At the Lincoln Memorial, Trump says, "They always say no one was treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse."
— Ted Johnson (@tedstew) May 4, 2020
Trump says he has gotten worse treatment than Lincoln. Does he know what happened at Ford's Theater?
— Jack Pitney (@jpitney) May 4, 2020
Twitter seems to help these bad reports snowball into full-blown narratives. One journalist sees a fellow journalist report something the wrong way, assumes that interpretation is correct, and runs with it on their own account. The process is a total waste of time.
But correcting the record is worth it because a) people were misinformed and b) media malpractice is a serious part of what’s wrong with our politics these days, despite the press’s insistence otherwise, so building that case with clear examples is necessary.
Trump’s media critics don’t need to distort his words to criticize him. It’s a waste of time, it only further discredits them, and it plays right into Trump’s hands.