Trump Did Not Personally Kill an Iraqi Woman, Disappointing Journalists

Fourth estate falls for another hoax

Demonstrators protest President Trump's immigration policy

Demonstrators protest President Trump's immigration policy / AP

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The news that President Donald Trump's travel ban killed an Iraqi Green Card holder sparked outrage from DNC-approved comediennes, people with Hashtag Resistance in their Twitter bios, and some of the nation's savviest political commentators, hard-nosed reporters, and even harder-nosed fictional TV anchors.

The revelation that the story was a complete fabrication inspired a rare mea culpa from the crowd that has spent the past three months saying that fake news on social media handed the election to Donald Trump—a narrative that appears to be untrue. MSNBC's Chris Hayes went so far as to delete his initial tweet about the outrage, in order to stop the spread and issued a warning to "Always Stay Skeptical Of Stories That Perfectly Confirm Your Priors."

The initial story about Mike Hager's Trump-induced heartbreak could have easily been fact-checked with a cursory search of the man's name. Before he spokes to a Detroit Fox Affiliate, Hager had given an interview to the Boston Globe from the city's airport. He told the Globe that several family members had been unable to enter the United States from his native Iraq. It was a run-of-the-mill tale that warranted only passive mention at the bottom of a news story.

By the time he landed in Detroit he had a new tale for an eager press. The ban no longer prohibited his family members from returning stateside. Instead it directly killed his mother, despite the fact that she had died days before the executive order. The local news station's story got picked up and aggregated across the web with no apparent need to look into the discrepancy. When the hoax was exposed, Time, Talking Points Memo, and Huffington Post updated the stories on their sites. Only TPM updated its Twitter followers about the new development.

Other reporters lashed out at readers who questioned their willingness to fall for the story. One Washington Post foreign policy writer received 300 retweets when he shared the initial story, and only 12 for his correction.

He later lashed out at "trolls" who pointed out that he had fallen for a fake news story because of confirmation bias. He attempted to refute them by outlining the priors that the story so perfectly confirmed.

Other seasoned newsmen remained in denial about the validity of the story. Former McClatchy D.C. bureau chief Jim Asher urged readers to not "jump to conclusion that this is fake news" because there are "alternative takes."

He never acknowledged that mistake and returned to tweeting about "fake facts" Friday. Other journalists also failed to update or correct the false impression they left with followers.

Even those who corrected their work voiced disappointment that the old woman died in vain because she could not serve an anti-trump narrative.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.