Newsweek ‘regrets’ reporting error after claiming Trump attacked ‘non-existent’ brother of Georgia’s secretary of state
The reporting error occurred after the US president took aim at Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not pursuing allegations of voter fraud, and claimed that the official’s brother “works for China.”
“They definitely don't want ‘Trump’. So disgusting!” he wrote at the end of the Twitter rant.
...The consent decree signed by the “Secretary”, with the consent of Kemp, is perhaps even more poorly negotiated than the deal that John Kerry made with Iran. Now it turns out that Brad R’s brother works for China, and they definitely don’t want “Trump”. So disgusting! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2020
The incendiary allegations prompted some US media outlets, who have dismissed Trump’s election fraud theories as dangerous misinformation, to go on the offensive.
‘Donald Trump Attacks Brad Raffensperger’s Brother – He Doesn’t Have One’, read the headline of a Newsweek story debunking the president’s remarks. The outlet said that there was no factual basis to the claim that Raffensperger is the sibling of an executive at a Huawei subsidiary who shares the same surname. To drive the point home, Newsweek triumphantly declared that, “as many social media users were quick to point out,” the Georgia official has no brother.
The outlet cited Stephen Fowler, a politics reporter with GPB News, Georgia's NPR and PBS station, who insisted that Raffensperger has two sisters but no male siblings. The NPR affiliate later updated its report, noting that the secretary of state actually has two more siblings, another sister, and one brother.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Georgia's Secretary of State does have a brother - who is a private citizen and not discussed much. He's also got sisters. None of them are named Ron, work for China or have to do with voting machine vendors.More details below. #gapolhttps://t.co/ucUmXJ7xCj— stephen fowler covers Georgia's election! (@stphnfwlr) December 30, 2020
“GPB News has confirmed via public documents and records that Raffensperger does have four siblings, including a brother, but none of them are named Ron, none work for Chinese technology companies,” the local news station wrote, adding that Trump was “leading a movement of misinformation” in the country.
This put Newsweek in an awkward spot, which had focused its Trump-dunking on the incorrect assumption that Raffensperger didn’t even have a brother.
“Correction: This story originally said, inaccurately, that Brad Raffensperger did not have a brother. Newsweek regrets the mistake,” the news organization wrote in an update posted to Twitter.
Correction: This story originally said, inaccurately, that Brad Raffensperger did not have a brother. Newsweek regrets the mistake. pic.twitter.com/2hg0s4fSkl— Newsweek (@Newsweek) December 30, 2020
Unsurprisingly, the correction caught the eye of Trump supporters.
Conservative commentator Mark Dice was one of many to declare the slip-up as a classic case of ‘fake news’.
We don’t call you fake news for nothin! 😆— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) December 30, 2020
“Amazing how modern journalists will publish a story with literally zero fact-checking of any kind, and then act like anyone who questions them is a fascist,” opined another unimpressed observer.
Amazing how modern journalists will publish a story with literally zero fact-checking of any kind, and then act like anyone who questions them in a fascist— (insert gimmick here) (@alt_dont) December 30, 2020
Others expressed gratitude that Newsweek corrected the mistake but speculated it may have left the error untouched had it not been such a central part of the story.
Good for retraction but this seems like a very easy fact to have checked before you wrote the story. Considering its a crucial part of the story. Wait...is that the only reason you retracted it?— Bill (Bammer) George (@Bammer_BAMF) December 30, 2020
Still, there were some who pointed out that there was plenty of blame to go around, arguing that Trump was spreading falsehoods, regardless of whether Raffensperger does or doesn’t have a brother.
Why did trump tweet about somebody that wasn’t even related to Brad , in the first place?He should have done fact checking before angrily tweeting.— kate sanford (@127kates) December 30, 2020
Doesn’t matter. He has a brother but his name is still not Ron and still doesn’t work for any Chinese company and is a private citizen.....so what trumpo said remains a LIE🙄— Kat Rey (@Glitterbeauties) December 30, 2020
Like many US outlets, Newsweek has endeavored to “fact check” Trump’s polarizing statements on the election and other contentious issues. The reporting error will likely be used as ammunition in the seemingly never-ending ‘fake news’ wars.
Georgia was among a handful of battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden after Trump lost early leads. The president has insisted that his loss was due to wide scale voter irregularities and fraud, and has accused Georgia’s Republican governor of turning a blind eye to evidence of shenanigans in his state. Lawsuits challenging the results in Georgia and elsewhere have been dismissed, but some Republican lawmakers have vowed to complicate the January 6 proceedings when Congress approves the Electoral College votes certifying Biden’s victory.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!