“As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her legal costs.”
A major liberal newspaper in London on Saturday printed a lengthy apology to Melania Trump for “false statements” in an article about the first lady’s life.
The Daily Telegraph took down the article and said it should never have been published. The paper also corrected ― point by point ― the numerous facts it got wrong about President Donald Trump’s wife and acknowledged that it had agreed to pay her “substantial damages.”
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“We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations,” the newspaper wrote. “As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her legal costs.”
The deeply flawed article, entitled “The mystery of Melania,” ran in last Saturday’s Telegraph magazine and purported to describe the “most private and enigmatic” of presidential wives after interviews with “White House insiders, Slovenian school friends and photographers.” It was an excerpt by Nina Burleigh, a national politics reporter at Newsweek, of her own forthcoming book “Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women.”
The Telegraph’s corrections of the write-up were humiliatingly comprehensive, requiring the paper to among other things acknowledge that Melania Trump was a successful model.
“Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family. Mrs Trump did not leave her design and architecture course at university relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump,” the paper said.
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“We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance.”
The correction added: “Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump. They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.”
In April 2017, another British newspaper, the Daily Mail, agreed to pay damages to Melania Trump for allegations it published about her modeling career in August 2016, during the presidential campaign. According to the BBC, the payout was about $3 million.
The Telegraph’s public self-abasement adds to a list of journalistic missteps by those reporting on President Donald Trump. Another high-profile apparent example was Buzzfeed’s report earlier this month that Donald Trump had directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow― which the Special Counsel made a rare public statement rebutting.
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While Trump has made plenty of newsworthy blunders and misstatements, such errors give credence to claims by the president and his supporters that the “fake news” media is biased against his administration. To many conservative observers, even those who are no fans of Trump, the problem goes beyond facts to an overall tendentious framing and tone in coverage, as well as harping on questionable storylines like the FBI’s investigations of the Trump campaign’s Russia ties.
Time will tell whose narrative wins out.