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USA Today on Wednesday faced harsh criticism for publishing an op-ed article by President Donald Trump that was riddled with inaccuracies and in which he attacked Democrats as “radical socialists” and pilloried the party’s “Medicare for All” proposal.
In his rare piece one month before the midterm elections, Trump falsely claimed that Democrats’ single-payer healthcare plan would strip benefits from seniors and promised he would protect insurance for Americans with preexisting conditions.
“The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead,” Trump wrote. “The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.”
Glenn Kessler, a Washington Post fact-checker, found that “almost every sentence” of the op-ed article “contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.” In a thorough analysis of the piece, Kessler noted that the president repeated several debunked claims and even cited some of The Post’s fact-checks and other sources that contradicted him.
In a statement on Twitter, USA Today’s opinion section said it “provides a forum for a diversity of views on issues of national relevance” and saw itself “as America’s conversation center, presenting our readers with voices from the right, left and middle.”
“President Trump’s op-ed was treated like other column submissions; we check factual assertions while allowing authors wide leeway to express their opinions,” the publication said, adding that it invited readers to submit opposing viewpoints for consideration.
But reporters and media critics, among others, slammed USA Today, saying the paper shouldn’t have uncritically published a piece of political spin.
“Publishing this op-ed is journalistic malpractice,” said Dan Gillmor, a professor of journalism at Arizona State University. “It is full of outright lies, easily demonstrated lies. Disgraceful.”
Others argued that the newspaper’s massive platform had been successfully hijacked by the president’s communications operation.
“This column may break the record for the number of falsehoods from a President ever published in a newspaper op-Ed. Just this tweet alone is false — ‘outlaw private health care plans’ and ‘letting anyone cross our border.’ Huh? Fact check: false and false. Come on USA Today,” tweeted Jim Acosta, a CNN White House correspondent.
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