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Trump tweeted “fake news” about the anti-ISIS fight

Turns out math is hard.

Trump Designates North Korea as State Sponsor of Terror During Cabinet Meeting Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump tweeted out false information about the military campaign against ISIS on Wednesday — and he failed to acknowledge the error when he corrected the mistake hours later.

Here’s what happened: On December 23, the Washington Examiner’s Jamie McIntyre reported on the US-led anti-ISIS coalition’s progress against the terrorist group in Trump’s first year. McIntyre, using the Pentagon’s data, noted that there were around 35,000 ISIS fighters that occupied about 17,500 square miles in Iraq and Syria when Trump took office in January. But as of December 21, there were around 1,000 ISIS militants in a 1,900-square-mile area, mostly concentrated in the Syrian desert.

But the Examiner made an error. It claimed that the US-led coalition liberated 26,800 square miles under Trump. That math is off: The coalition actually freed around 15,570 square miles of territory in Iraq and Syria since January 20. The Examiner subsequently corrected its mistake Wednesday night.

But Trump didn’t realize that. Trump tweeted the wrong data from the article at 2:49 pm on Wednesday, comparing his anti-ISIS progress to former President Barack Obama’s. Recall that the fight against ISIS started during the Obama administration in 2014:

Screenshot of President Donald Trump’s first December 27, 2017 tweet about the anti-ISIS campaign.
@realdonaldtrump and Daily Mail.

After the Examiner fixed its mistake, Trump deleted the original tweet above and replaced it with the one below at 9:09 pm. Nowhere does he note that he, too, corrected the error. The tweet below now has the right number — 15,570 square miles liberated — instead of the incorrect 26,800 square miles from the first tweet.

Trump promoted “fake news”

This is troublesome. Apparently no one on Trump’s social media team — or Trump himself — realized that it’s impossible for the US-led coalition to liberate 26,800 miles square miles of territory if Trump took over when 17,500 square miles remained in ISIS’s possession. That’s just math.

And, based on these tweets, it’s possible Trump is unaware of the actual gains the anti-ISIS coalition has made since he became president. If he did know, he might’ve just used the Pentagon data to boast on Twitter without the Examiner article’s help. Instead, he relied on the piece to brag about his success.

Trump continues to lambast the media for “fake news.” When media outlets make mistakes, they correct the error and acknowledge it in their pieces — just like the Examiner did. But Trump didn’t do that. He deleted the original tweet and then posted the new one without any explanation whatsoever.

So on Wednesday, it appears the biggest purveyor of “fake news” wasn’t the media, but the president himself.

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