Elected Officials Have an Obligation to Avoid Spreading ‘fake News'

Facts matter, even — perhaps especially — in our polarized political environment. "Fake news" isn't a matter of opinion or partisan viewpoint; it's an objectively demonstrable falsehood. So it's disturbing to see elected officials jumping to endorse unverified or obviously bogus "news" accounts without confirming their veracity. When they use social media to pass along dubious anecdotes in support of a political position, they contribute to a damaging atmosphere of mistrust and uncertainty. Exhibit A: The indictment last week of two Texas hunters who fabricated a tale of being shot by a murderous band of "illegal aliens." In reality, they shot each other in what appears to have been a stunning violation of routine gun safety protocol. After the incident in early January, one of the injured men accepted more than $26,000 in charity money donated to help pay his medical expenses. Yet U.S. Border Patrol officials and Presidio County Sheriff's investigators quickly found evidence that no "border jumpers" were involved, and that members of the hunting party had been responsible for each other's injuries. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, never shy about passing along dubious tales that support his own political leanings, posted the hunters' account to his Facebook page, adding the comment, "This is why we need the wall and to secure our borders." The item was later deleted, but not before it had been shared by Miller's followers more than 6,500 times, according to The Washington Post. Likewise, Gov. Greg Abbott eagerly responded to a claim over the weekend by a Rio Grande Valley woman that her grandfather had been robbed at gunpoint by "illegals" in the parking lot of a fried chicken restaurant, which she said showed the need for improved border security. Abbott quickly tweeted in response: "Let him know that Texas is coming to his rescue. We'll work to protect him & put an end to this."   Continue reading...

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