On Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out a photo of Anderson Cooper standing in waist-deep water during a hurricane and claimed that CNN was “lying” and attempting to make his father “look bad.”
It’s a shame that CNN’s ratings are down 41%. What’s worse is there’s a simple solution that they refuse to accept. Stop Lying to try to make @realDonaldTrump look bad. https://t.co/O3XyWchsJh pic.twitter.com/BCUCxKnOvO
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 16, 2018
This was a variation on a meme that made its way around conservative online circles, which accused Cooper of faking a shot to make the flooding look even worse than it was.
View this post on Instagram
The one problem: it’s fake news.
So, Cooper took a few minutes during ‘AC 360’ last night to scold Don Jr., saying, “I debated whether I should even respond tonight to the president’s son.”
He went on:
“I know he considers himself an outdoorsman and pays a lot of money to be led to wildlife in Africa that he then kills. But I’m not sure if he’s actually been to a hurricane or a flood. I didn’t see him down in North Carolina over the last few days helping out, lending a hand, but I’m sure he was doing something important besides just tweeting lies.”
One problem with the photograph is that it wasn’t taken during Hurricane Florence, which battered the Carolinas over the past several days, but rather it was taken during Hurricane Ike in 2008. Trump Jr. shared the photo without context, and it was promptly retweeted more than 22,000 times.
Cooper displayed Trump’s tweet on the air and also shared some of the responses that followed.
Some guy said I was on my knees to make it look deep and then went on to say that I was used to being on my knees, which I assume is some sort of anti-gay reference,” he said. “Very classy.”
Cooper pointed out that at the time the photo was taken, he had actually told viewers that the floodwaters had receded. CNN had also shown footage of emergency vehicles driving down a road which was not nearly as flooded.
“You can argue I didn’t need to be standing in waist-deep water,” Cooper said. “I could have been standing on the road by the camera crew. But, again, I didn’t want to be roaming around on the highway interfering with rescue vehicles in any way. I also wanted to show people how deep the water was and how dangerous it is for anyone driving. It’s easy to make fun of someone standing in water reporting. I get that.”
Cooper also explained why he’d chosen to devote so much time on his show to debunking Trump Jr.’s tweet:
“I rarely respond to online conspiracy theorists or cable news cranks looking to get into a mutually beneficial beef that will boost their ratings… I’ve covered hurricanes for about 14 years and it really does make me sad to think that anyone would think that I would try to fake something or overly dramatize a disaster… Look, I don’t expect the president’s son to ever admit that he was wrong or one of the president’s advisers or frankly anyone else who’s retweeted any of these pictures. But I at least thought that they and you should know the truth.”
Critics embraced Cooper’s thorough debunking of the lie, and Trump Jr. was soon assailed for propagating it.
— Marshall Cohen (@MarshallCohen) September 18, 2018
WOW!!! Thanks @andersoncooper for doing this report. Thank you for exposing how the "truth is not truth" crowd which of which Donnie Trump Jr is one create false stories. It is amazing how the alternative facts crowd actually believes the alternative rather than actual facts. https://t.co/Hs3WMLKqnY
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) September 18, 2018
The sad part is that the people who needed to hear Anderson Cooper rip into Donald Trump Jr. are the people least likely to be watching CNN. Nobody volunteers to be deprogrammed. Still, we need more truth telling like this.
— Steve Redmond (@sjredmond) September 18, 2018
Hurricane Florence has killed more than 30 people, and Trump Jr. was also called out for suggesting that the damage wrought by the storm is not as severe.
Anderson Cooper did a wonderful job of fact checking your stupidity. BUT, as a NC resident who has seen first hand the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence, HOW DARE YOU SAY THE NEWS EXAGGERATED THE FLOODING?! Why don’t you come down here & volunteer for clean-up?
— AliciaCH (@AliciaCH16) September 18, 2018
People in NC have homes under water, no electricity. They can’t leave and help can’t reach them. For those of us in NC #FlorenceHurricane2018 is neither a joke nor an opportunity to pocket insurance money….like hurricanes are for your disgusting family. Grow up Junior. pic.twitter.com/ygD7V21Wi8
— B Payne (@badpayne19501) September 18, 2018
Instead of tweeting bad info, why don’t you go to the Carolinas and help? Be something that the American people can cheer about. Stop defending your father he has enough people on staff to do that. Show America what it mean to be the President’s son. Be charitable & compassionate
— Richard Alcazar (@RPAlcazar) September 18, 2018
President Donald Trump himself made headlines last week for discrediting the extent of devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, though his administration’s response to the current disaster has been considerably more prompt.