Since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, our “reality” has been muddled by news sources prioritizing confirmation bias over truthful reporting. The continued polarization of the media and the growing presence of “fake news” sites and sources have created an unprecedented amount of distrust amongst news consumers.
The rise of fake news has also complicated the controversial reports regarding Trump and his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, leaving even intelligence reports from the FBI and CIA open to criticism and doubt. The dilemma reached dizzying new heights of absurdity on Tuesday when BuzzFeed published an unverified 35-page memo accusing Russian intelligence of having personal and financially compromising information on the incoming president.
The controversial memo was the focal point of Trump’s first press conference since the election. The President-Elect blasted the intelligence report as “fake news,” claiming that the unsubstantiated memo (which he called “a failing pile of garbage”) was put together by “sick people” who oppose his presidency.
The intelligence report is filled with information that would seem outlandish if attributed to anyone other than Trump. The memo hints that Trump may have taken part in crude behavior in a Moscow hotel room, and even includes mention of “golden showers” (a sexually deviant act involving urination). These far-out accusations suggest that Trump may be compromised by Russian intelligence. It is of prime importance to note that, for the moment, they are nothing more than baseless allegations.
According to CNN, the released intel was funded by anti-Trump and pro-Clinton donors, eventually finding its way into the hands of Republican Sen. John McCain, who in turn passed it on to the FBI.
During the press conference, Trump vehemently denied a question from a CNN reporter, accusing the media network of being a disseminator of fake news, but praised other news sources for questioning the validity of the unverified memo. He also refused to answer whether or not his campaign has been in contact with Russian officials, but did state that he considers it “an asset, not a liability” that he and Putin get along.
In addition to denouncing the memo, Trump reiterated that he would be handing over control of his businesses to his sons, and would continue to refuse to release his tax returns. The President-Elect also mentioned that he would reveal his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act as soon as Tom Price, his nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, is confirmed by the Senate.
Whether the bombastic report is accurate, partially true, or are just flat out fantasy meant to denigrate Trump remains to be seen.
Regardless of the validity of the report, two things remain obvious. Firstly, the memo clearly rubbed Trump the wrong way, and secondly, it’s nearly impossible to verify what is true and what is false in the state of today’s media. Welcome to the post-truth era.