On Twitter this morning, Katie Benner, a Justice Department reporter for the New York Times, claimed to have summarized a comment President Trump made in a radio interview. In fact, she entirely misrepresents what he said.
Here’s what Benner wrote:
Pres. Trump suggests on Fox Radio that there are Good Christians and Bad Christians. The good ones support Donald Trump; the bad ones, like those who criticized his photo stunt, are the opposition.
— Katie Benner (@ktbenner) June 3, 2020
According to the transcript, Trump didn’t utter the word “Christian” a single time in the entire interview. Meanwhile, consulting the transcript to identify what Benner is referencing, you’ll see that Trump used the phrase “the opposition party” to refer to rioters who burned St. John’s Church in D.C. — not to “bad Christians” or to those who criticized him for taking a photo at the church. Here’s his comment in context:
KILMEADE: Mr. President, you gave a speech in the Rose Garden. Got a thumbs up from a lot of people, especially your supporters, and then you said I’m going to go to a very important place. And they quickly cleared out Lafayette Park, and you walked through with many of your staff, from Kayleigh McEnany, to the Secretary of Defense who said he didn’t know where he was going at the time. And you appeared at St. John’s Church, which was boarded up and you held up a Bible.
The Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of a book on that church says the church is not a photo op. Their religion is not a political tool, and God is not a plaything. He is among some religious leaders who were very critical of that visit. What’s your response?
TRUMP: Well my response is simple. Most religious leaders loved it. I heard Franklin Graham this morning thought it was great. I heard many other people think it was great. And it’s only the other side that didn’t like it. You know, the opposing — the opposition party as the expression goes. They burned down the church the day before. I heard how nice and wonderful the protestors were over there. Really?
Then why did they burn down the church the day before? They burned down a big section of it. Fortunately they were able to catch it in time.
One can reasonably disagree with the president’s choice to walk to St. John’s and take a photo with a Bible. But Times reporters should strive to meet a higher standard than making false claims easily disproven by consulting a transcript.