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Suspended from social media, Donald Trump turns to traditional media avenues to push falsehoods
Supporters cheer and wave as former president Donald Trump is introduced at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP) Supporters cheer and wave as former president Donald Trump is introduced at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP)

Supporters cheer and wave as former president Donald Trump is introduced at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP)

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde July 14, 2021

If Your Time is short

  • Since being suspended from Facebook and Twitter, Donald Trump has headlined political conferences, hosted rallies, held a press conference, given media interviews, participated in a border security briefing with the governor of Texas, and issued written statements.

  • Trump has used these venues to say things that are untrue or unproven.

  • Generally, these offline platforms have allowed him to go unchecked, with no or little pushback to his false and misleading claims about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Donald Trump’s social media posts in the aftermath of the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol got him suspended from Facebook and Twitter amid concerns that his false claims about a stolen election would provoke more violence.

His Facebook or Twitter accounts have been off limits to him for more than six months.

But he hasn’t been silent.

Since his exit from the White House, Trump has headlined political conferences, hosted rallies, held a press conference, given media interviews, made appearances with political allies, and issued written statements (often several a day).

More than that, these outlets have afforded him the same privilege that he once enjoyed on Twitter and Facebook: the ability to spread falsehoods without much pushback or restraint. Trump has exploited these opportunities to advance false and misleading claims about, among other things, the 2020 election and Jan. 6, when his supporters stormed the Capitol to block Congress’ constitutional certification of the election results showing he lost to Joe Biden.

In recent weeks, for example, Trump has joined a chorus of Republican lawmakers seeking to downplay the events of Jan. 6 and portray the riot as more or less a peaceful protest, even though demonstrators broke windows and attacked law enforcement officers with weapons.

Interview with Maria Bartiromo

In one of Trump’s latest Fox News interviews, he made several baseless claims that went unchallenged, and were even encouraged by host Maria Bartiromo.

Trump claimed that "we had a corrupt election. We had a rigged election. We had a stolen election." None of that is true. No legitimate evidence has emerged to prove widespread fraud or stolen votes that would change the outcome of the election.

At one point, Bartiromo said that according to a conservative website, The Federalist, "new evidence indicates enough illegal votes in Georgia to tip the 2020 results." That disregards the fact that Georgia’s top elections official, a Republican, has stood by the state’s election procedures and dismissed claims about fraud.

At Bartiromo’s nudging, Trump claimed that "there were no guns whatsoever" during the riot at the Capitol. That’s false. Some people brought guns onto Capitol grounds, according to charging documents for crimes related to the insurrection. Many people used other weapons, such as clubs and flagpoles.

Trump described Jan. 6 as "a lovefest between the police, the Capitol Police, and the people that walked down to the Capitol." That’s contradicted by the facts, including a bipartisan Senate report, video evidence and acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, who said nearly 150 law enforcement officers were injured. Police fatally shot one woman who was with a group of rioters near the entrance to the House chamber in the Capitol.

News coverage of Trump post-presidency

During his first campaign and his time in office, cable networks routinely aired Trump’s daily movements and speeches live, misinformation and all. Some have since limited their coverage of Trump.

"They are paying attention to the news value, if there is one," said Aly Colón, a media ethics professor at Washington and Lee University and a former Poynter Institute faculty member. "If there is not a news value, they see no reason to be a megaphone for someone who may not be advancing anything or advancing things that are not accurate, possibly untrue."

That has opened them up to charges of biased coverage or censorship of a major political leader.

That’s why media outlets have to do a better job of explaining to the public how they determine newsworthiness and why certain events are or are not covered, said Laura Castañeda, a professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

"That could help mitigate charges of bias from the public," she said. "Transparency is key."

Other networks, like Newsmax and One America News Network, cater to an audience of Trump supporters, and they remain all in on Trump news.

By airing Trump’s events in full and live, they give their viewers what they want, experts said. 

"Trump's hardcore supporters will turn to the outlet that carries what they want," said Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "And at the moment, that is all Trump, all the time,"

After Trump’s first post-presidency rally, Newsmax said that his "super-charged return to the political stage over the weekend was a ratings smash for Newsmax, which trounced Fox News in key ratings."

Experts said news networks and journalists do a disservice to the public by not treating such events and one-on-one interviews with more scrutiny.

"Being complicit in lies is not the proper role of the news media, and journalists should push back against falsehoods and unsubstantiated statements," Kirtley said.

It’s also journalists' responsibility to bring context and additional information that will help the public understand what is going on, Colón said.

"While the former president has sought to use every communication outlet that he can, it doesn't mean that every outlet has to be either a recording or repetition or megaphone for whatever it is that he is asserting," Colón said.

Where the pro-Trump networks have been more cautious in recent months is in countering claims from Trump and his allies about manipulation of voting machines used in the 2020 election — claims that are the subject of ongoing litigation.

Fox News Network is facing a $1.6 billion defamation suit filed in March by Dominion Voting Systems, alleging that it "endorsed, repeated and broadcast a series of verifiably false yet devastating lies about Dominion."

Fox News is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed on First Amendment grounds.

But on July 11, as it aired live coverage of Trump’s speech at a conservative conference in Dallas, Fox News had an on-screen caption that said: "The voting system companies have denied the various allegations made by President Trump and his counsel regarding the 2020 election." According to a tweet by Oliver Darcy, a senior media reporter at CNN, the disclaimer appeared on screen for about 40 seconds.

Fox News and Newsmax also made on-air clarifications in December to disavow unsubstantiated claims that were aired on their shows, in response to complaints from Smartmatic, an elections technology and software company.

Smartmatic in February filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, some of its on-air hosts and its parent company. They have also sought to dismiss Smartmatic's lawsuit on First Amendment grounds.

Trump’s post-presidency claims about the election and Jan. 6

In addition to the claim about guns at the Capitol, PolitiFact has evaluated several statements Trump has made in TV interviews, speeches and statements about the election and the riot since he left office:

  • In a July 7 press conference to announce that he was filing a lawsuit against several social media platforms: "The person that shot Ashli Babbitt — boom — right through the head — just boom — there was no reason for that." False.

  • In a June 27 statement: "Facts have now come out to show conclusively" that the 2020 presidential election wasn’t legitimate. Pants on Fire!

  • In a video statement shown June 26 to Wisconsin Republican Party convention delegates: "In 2020 we won (Wisconsin)." Pants on Fire!

  • In a June 25 statement: Claimed that Republican leaders "are working hard to cover up election corruption in Wisconsin." Pants on Fire!

  • In a June 22 statement: Claims that Georgia didn’t update its voter rolls prior to the 2020 presidential election; "this means we (you!) won the presidential election in Georgia." Pants on Fire!

  • In a June 5 speech to the North Carolina Republican Convention: "Republican state senators" who started an audit of 2020 election results in Arizona’s Maricopa County are "exposing this fraud." False.

  • In a May 15 statement: "The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!" False.

  • In a Feb. 28 interview with Fox News host Steve Hilton: Claimed he requested "10,000 National Guardsmen" for his Jan. 6 rally, but Nancy Pelosi "rejected it." False.

Questionable claims go beyond election

Trump has also made questionable claims about his own administration’s record and the Biden administration:

  • In an April 19 Fox News interview: "Human trafficking and drugs" at the Mexico border have "doubled, tripled and quadrupled" since Joe Biden became president. False.

  • In a March 29 statement: Claimed that Deborah Birx "traveled a great distance to see her family for Thanksgiving, only to have them call the police and turn her in. She then ... resigned." Half True.

  • In a March 21 statement: "We proudly handed the Biden administration the most secure border in history. All they had to do was keep this smooth-running system on autopilot." Mostly False.

  • In a Feb. 28 speech at a political conference: Claimed that the voting-rights bill H.R. 1 "automatically registers every welfare recipient to vote." Mostly False.

  • In a Feb. 28 speech at a political conference: Claimed that Joe Biden "has effectively ordered a shutdown of ICE, halting virtually all deportations, everyone, murderers, everybody, no more." False.

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Our Sources

Twitter, Permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump, Jan. 8, 2021

Facebook, Our Response to the Violence in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021, updated Jan. 7, 2021

U.S. Capitol Police, After the Attack: The Future of the U.S. Capitol Police, July 6, 2021 

Twitter, @OliverDarcy tweet, July 11, 2021

Dominion Voting Systems, Announcement of lawsuit against Fox News Network, lawsuit filing, March 26, 2021

Newsmax, Newsmax Beats Fox in Key Ratings, Trump Rally Draws 3+ Million Viewers, June 29 2021

Email interview, Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, July 13, 2021

Phone interview, Aly Colón, a media ethics professor at Washington and Lee University, July 13, 2021

Email interview, Laura Castañeda, a professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, July 12, 2021 

NPR, New Body Camera Footage Shows The Violence Against Police During The Capitol Riot, June 23, 2021

Senate committees’ report, Examining the U.S. Capitol Attack

Courtlistener.com, Statement of Facts court document filed June 10, 2021

YouTube, WUSA9: Capitol riot: Videos shows men beat, drag officer into savage mob, July 10, 2021 

Twitter, @realdonaldtrump, account suspended

Facebook, Donald J. Trump page

Rev.com, Donald Trump CPAC 2021 Speech Transcript Dallas, TX, July 11, 2021; 

Greg Abbott & Donald Trump Texas Border Security Briefing Transcript, June 30, 2021 

Donald Trump Wellington, Ohio Rally Speech Transcript: First Rally Since Leaving Office, June 27, 2021 

Fox News, Rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," July 11 2021

DonaldJTrump.com, News page

Poynter.org, Maria Bartiromo delivers another troubling interview with Donald Trump, July 12, 2021

PolitiFact.com, latest fact-checks on Donald Trump

Smartmatic.com, Lawsuit Updates & Fact Checks; Smartmatic Demands Justice for Defamation, Dec. 14, 2020; Lawsuit against Fox Corporation

The Washington Post, Newsmax issues sweeping ‘clarification’ debunking its own coverage of election misinformation, Dec. 21, 2020

Newsmax, Facts About Dominion, Smartmatic You Should Know, Dec. 19, 2020

Fox News, Fox News Media In Conjunction With Maria Bartiromo, Judge Jeanine Pirro And Lou Dobbs, File Replies In Support Of Their Motions To Dismiss Smartmatic Lawsuit, April 26, 2021

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Suspended from social media, Donald Trump turns to traditional media avenues to push falsehoods