Trump said some potentially unconventional things in his U.N. speech, and many media outlets pointed this out. His statements were different from what past U.S. leaders have said there, and from some recent remarks by his cabinet members. He spoke, for instance, of crushing “loser terrorists,” and said the U.S. could “totally destroy North Korea” under certain circumstances. He also made statements that could be seen as contradictory.
It’s not a problem that the media points these things out – indeed it can help us understand the president’s remarks in a greater context. It’s how it reports them. Instead of just reporting the facts, outlets added their own opinions—for instance, that he was “saber-rattling,” “unabashed” or “characteristically confrontational.” If outlets editorialize as they report, people may take the opinion as fact. This deviates from data-based journalism and can discourage critical evaluation. Take a look at the following examples:
The New York Times
“Trump at times dispensed with the restrained rhetoric many American presidents use at the United Nations” “Trump arrived at the United Nations with a more overtly nationalist approach than past American presidents.”
The Times could cite speeches by previous U.S. presidents and compare them to Trump’s. That way, you could draw your own conclusions based on what they said, instead of relying on opinionated phrases like “more overtly nationalist.” We’ve provided some excerpts of various presidents’ U.N. speeches in the Context section. Take a look.
“The at-times contradictory remarks were filled with soaring rhetoric that touched on everything from ‘God’ to ‘chaos,’ and the dark tones were reminiscent of Trump’s inaugural address, in which he promised to bring an end to ‘American carnage.’”
Trump said the word “sovereignty” 21 times. He also talked about the U.N. guiding world leaders to “solve many of these vicious and complex problems.” You might find these concepts contradictory, or you might not, but you can decide for yourself without opinion like “soaring rhetoric” and “dark tones.”
“Trump’s saber-rattling rhetoric, with the bare-knuckled style he used to win election last November, was in contrast to the comments of some of his own Cabinet members who have stated a preference for a diplomatic solution.”
Trump said if the U.S. “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Yet Defense Secretary James Mattis has said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was working on a diplomatic solution to North Korea. Reuters did include this information, but only after opinion like “saber-rattling” and “bare-knuckled style.”
Written by Analea Holland and Julia Berry López
Edited by Julia Berry López and Jens Erik Gould
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Jens Erik Gould
Jens is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News