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CNN, NYT lead shameless media pack as another ginned-up Trump conspiracy crashes and burns

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Twitter threadster and freelance writer Drew Holden took to Twitter Thursday to chide several media outlets who falsely reported that then-President Donald Trump ordered protesters gassed and cleared out of Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., so he could walk over to nearby St. John’s Church for a Bible-clutching photo-op last summer.

Trump was roundly criticized in the media and on left-wing cable news outlets in June 2020, days after riots jumped off throughout the country following the death of George Floyd, for walking to the historic church — which had been previously set ablaze by rioters — to be photographed holding a Bible aloft. Outlets and pundits claimed that Trump ordered Park Police to disperse hundreds of demonstrators so he could make the short walk to the church from the White House.

But the Interior Department Inspector General’s office reported this week that according to its investigation, Trump never issued any such order to the department. Rather, the IG found that protesters were dispersed and moved back so that police could erect barriers that were further from the White House after mobs crowded the grounds, forcing the Secret Service to shuttle the then-president to a bunker temporarily.

Some in the media, including NBC News’ Ken Dilianian, admitted they were wrong in their reporting about the incident. But others, including MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Jim Acosta, ignored the IG’s findings and stuck to their original false narrative during their Thursday programs.

In a thread, however, Holden called out several media outlets for getting their initial reporting wrong, even though the administration explained at the time they were incorrect.

“Another Trump-related conspiracy has crashed & burned, this one about protests a year ago at Lafayette Square Park. We were told Trump acted like a tinpot dictator for a photo op. But an IG investigation found that wasn’t true. I think some apologies are in order,” Holden began.

Beginning with CNN “because they’re emblematic of the trend,” Holder wrote that the network fashioned all of its reporting on the incident to fit the false narrative.

“The causality here is clear: protestors forced out for Trump. The rest of their reporting fits that framing. The thing is: that wasn’t true,” he wrote in a post containing screengrabs of CNN headlines, one of which claimed the Trump administration turned a “peaceful protest” “violent.”

Holden then cited Acosta specifically, who claimed, “Just an unbelievable use of military and police force to clear out Lafayette Park protestors for a photo op.”

In another example, Holden cited CNN reporter Daniel Dale who simply refused to accept the administration’s explanation that protesters were cleared to create a buffer zone.

Holden then moved on to the New York Times, asking if the paper still stands behind its initial reporting. The post included a screenshot of a Times headline that read, “How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park.” The story’s subhead added: “When the history of the Trump presidency is written, the clash with protesters that preceded President Trump’s walk across Layfayette Square may be remembered as one of its defining moments.”

Another Times tweet claimed that Trump had the park “cleared out” in a “burst of violence unlike any seen in the shadow of the White House in generations.”

The Washington Post, meanwhile, published “*multiple* pieces of ‘news analysis’ – so not opinion commentary, mind you, this is the news section – comparing the United States to dictatorships because of the incident,” Holden wrote, adding screenshots of the paper’s reports.

“But @MSNBC was pretty close behind them, both in print and broadcast. These are just a few examples,” Holden wrote. “Again, causality is clear: this thing happened because Trump wanted it to. They had a rotating series of guests on to drive the point home.”

“You may wonder what the impact of getting this wrong was,” Holden wrote, going on to suggest a sinister political angle.

“I would recommend reading the inimitable @davidshor on polling ‘the real inflection point in our polling was the Lafayette Park incident…that’s when support for Biden shot up and it’s been pretty steady since,'” Holden said. “At the risk of putting too fine a point on it: this moment, while surely not a unicausal phenomenon, represented a turning point where current President Biden overtook former President Trump in the polls.

“We’ve now learned that the narrative surrounding that event wasn’t true,” he added before citing more press examples of the false narrative.

Holden also took Democrats to task for making the same false accusations.

Jon Dougherty

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