Buzzfeed, NYDN Take Trump Staffer’s Comments Out-of-Context to Add Racial Tinge


The New York Daily News Thursday misreported a quote from a member of Trump’s transition team in a manner that gave it an unfortunate racial tinge.

“Kanye was not invited to perform because Trump’s inauguration will be a ‘typically and traditionally American’ event,” tweeted NYDN, racking up hundreds of retweets in the process.

Most interpreted the comments in a racially-charged way.

But this is what the Trump team actually said:

“We haven’t asked him,” Tom Barrack, the chair for the committee, told CNN. “He considers himself a friend of the President-elect, but it’s not the venue. The venue we have for entertainment is filled out, it’s perfect, it’s going to be typically and traditionally American, and Kanye is a great guy, but we just haven’t asked him to perform.”

Barrack said West wasn’t performing and that the event would be “traditionally American,” but he doesn’t appear to have ever said West wasn’t performing because the event was “traditionally American.” As I read it, the comment about it being “traditionally American” seems to be a continuation of his earlier comments that the event being “perfect” and “filled out”: all praiseworthy things for an inauguration ceremony.

There were two thoughts in his statement– there’ll be no West, and the venue will be great– but he never made a connection between the two. The worst you can say is that Barrack’s point was garbled and confused, but the NYDN tweet just seems extremely uncharitable.

A few hours later, Buzzfeed picked up the story with a similar take: “Kanye West Was Not Asked To Perform At ‘Typically And Traditionally American’ Inauguration.” That headline’s not as overtly incorrect as NYDN‘s, but still ties the two unrelated thoughts together. And the subheadline just omits huge blocks of text to take it even further out of context: “He considers himself a friend of the president-elect, but it’s not the venue… It’s going to be typically and traditionally American.”

Unsurprisingly, people tweeting out the Buzzfeed piece ended up with the same mistaken impression they did from the NYDN piece, often never getting further than the headline and sub-headline.

What’s bizarre is that the Buzzfeed piece was already corrected: “An earlier version of this post included the suggestion that Kanye West was not invited to perform at the inauguration due to it being a “typically and traditionally American,” event. Barrack did not say that.” Kudos for admitting they were wrong, but I don’t understand why the piece is still written in a way that gives that mistaken impression.

As a final note, I’ll point out that there actually is an African-American performer for the inauguration: Chrisette Michele. Likewise, Broadway star Jennifer Holliday was scheduled to perform, but backed out after being pressured by– well, many of the same people now accusing Trump of excluding blacks. So really, this whole story ought to have been dismissed from the outset.

UPDATE (3:14 PM ET): Geez, now even The New York Post is getting in on the game.

[Image via screengrab]

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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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