10 Times The Hill’s Twitter Account Badly Misled Readers

• December 26, 2017 9:00 am


The Hill, a political newspaper and website, has published numerous misleading headlines on their Twitter account in recent months that have primarily reflected negatively on the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress.

Back in February, the Hill's editor-in-chief Bob Cusack characterized the online publication as "unbiased" and "the most accurate" news coverage in the country. However, several of their Twitter headlines have been misleading at best and factually dishonest at worst, oftentimes belied by the headlines and text of the stories to which they link.

Here are 10 examples.

1) The Hill tweeted a report this month that "over 6,000 DC lobbysists worked on GOP tax bill." The headline on the article was far different: "Analysis: More than 6,000 lobbyists have worked on taxes in 2017."

"There are just under 11,000 active lobbyists in the nation's capital, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), and more than half of them — 6,243 — have reported working on taxes this year, according to the report, which relies on CRP data," The Hill reported.

That's all well and good, but that's not the same as working specifically on the GOP's tax overhaul.

2) A provocative headline: "Top GOP strategist: Republican tax bill is ‘build on a foundation of lies'."

The Hill‘s "top GOP strategist" referred to in the tweet below, however, is Steve Schmidt, an MSNBC political analyst who has spend the better part of five years ripping into Republicans and conservatives while giving the network's panels the appearance of balance.

The last major campaign he ran was Sen. John McCain's (R., Ariz.) failed 2008 bid for the presidency. Earlier this year, he said it was easier in America to buy 50 AK-47s than to buy cough medicine, to give an idea of where his politics are at this point.

3) The Hill suggested through its tweet on Oct. 13 that heartless Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Puerto Rico needs to "get back on its own two feet," implying Ryan meant Puerto Rico should recover from hurricane damage without federal help.

The headline on the actual piece, "Feds have duty to help Puerto Rico," told the real story: Ryan wanted the federal government to continue investing resources to assist Puerto Rico's recovery.

The original tweet fooled a lot of people, including Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.). He apparently couldn't be bothered to read the story but did quote-tweet it and snarked, "Funny, you never said that about Houston."

4) This total non-news item about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in September came during the investigation into Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's use of taxpayer funds for private jet travel, an offense for which he later resigned from the Trump administration.

The tweet: "DeVos uses private jet for work-related travel."

The headline: "DeVos flies on her own private jet for work-related travel."

Wow! That's … not a scandal at all. But you clicked, didn't you?

5) Last July, the publication wrote about a new Reuters/Ipsos poll that said 21 percent of likely voters would not be voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the presumptive nominees of their respective political parties.

But the Twitter headline read, "NEW POLL: Americans want alternative to both Trump and Clinton."

Instead of specifying the percentage of likely voters looking for an alternative candidate in the headline, it used a vague headline in an attempt to make it seem like a majority of Americans would vote for someone else.

6) Last month, The Hill wrote about a store in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park selling wine that was produced at Trump Winery as recently as September.

The actual article quotes the National Park Service (NPS) spokesman Jeremy Barnum stressing that Delaware North Cos. made the decision to sell the wine and that the NPS had nothing to do with the decision. While the headline of the actual article clarifies this, the Twitter headline appears to suggest that there is a conflict of interest since it does not include "says feds not involved" at the end of the headline.

"National Park gift shop sold wine from Trump winery," the Twitter headline reads, while the actual story headline read, "National park store sold Trump wine, says feds not involved."

7) Last weekend, The Hill reported that Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, was the "very senior member" of the president's transition team that told former national security adviser Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials about a United Nations resolution.

The move by Kushner was done during the transition period after the election and before Trump was sworn in, but readers wouldn't know this by looking at the Twitter headline.

The headline of the article specifies that Kushner was a "senior transition official," but the Twitter headline just reads, "Kushner ordered Flynn to contact Russians." This headline is misleading because readers may have thought Kushner told Flynn to contact the Russians during the campaign versus during the transition.

8) In September, The Hill misquoted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro in its Twitter headline by saying he was calling protesters at his University of California-Berkeley speech "pathetic, lying, stupid jackasses."

The body of the article specified that he was talking about anti-fascist, or "antifa," activists, who the New York Times have previously described as radicals that "have shown no qualms about using their fists, sticks or canisters of pepper spray to meet an array of right-wing antagonists whom they call a fascist threat to American democracy."

However, the Twitter and article headlines both said he was talking about protesters at the speech.

"False. I said this explicitly about Antifa," Shapiro responded.

9) The Hill published an article in March about Trump visiting Trump National Golf Club, which is about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. The initial Twitter headline reads, "Trump makes his ninth golf course visit as president. He's been in office seven weeks." The headline was meant as a jab at Trump, who criticized former President Barack Obama several times during his presidency for playing golf, but the initial reporting was wrong.

Trump's social media director Dan Scavino, Jr. called the outlet out later that afternoon on Twitter and said it was giving its followers the wrong impression about Trump playing golf.

He went on to say that Trump was working and The Hill used an old picture of Trump playing golf a month earlier in Florida.

It included Scavino's tweet and another tweet from Fox News' White House producer Fin Gomez, who posted a picture of Trump meeting with his staff, in their article, but never changed its headlines to reflect that Trump was actually working. The Twitter account posted the article twice that day after it was originally posted with pictures of Trump playing golf. They can be seen here and here.

10) The Hill tweeted Nov. 2 that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry "suggests fossil fuels help prevent sexual assault." Oh man, what a dummy! How could fossil fuels stop sexual assault?

The story's actual headline was a bit closer to what Perry was going for with his remark: "Perry links fossil fuel development to preventing sexual assault."

The Hill was hardly the only outlet to run with Perry's comments in the worst light, when he was trying to make the case that better lighting in certain areas can help reduce crime. But it was certainly in line with its social media practices to dumb it down and create silly clickbait.