Trump lied on Twitter, and the media spread it far and wide

Trump took credit for saving a Ford plant that was never in any danger in the first place.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2016 CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2016 CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

President-elect Donald Trump fired off two tweets on Thursday bragging about having saved American jobs. A Ford plant in Kentucky that was planning to move to Mexico, he alleged, was now going to stay in Kentucky because of his election.

The problem? There was never a Ford plant in Kentucky that was going to be moved to Mexico. Trump manufactured a crisis, and then took credit for solving it — and without pausing to verify the story, the media spread Trump’s version of reality far and wide.

Over the course of his campaign, Trump repeatedly swung at Ford for “leaving” the U.S. and taking away jobs. With his tweets on Thursday, he appears to be taking credit for fulfilling his campaign promises.

But the plant that Trump is referencing here was never in danger of closing or moving. In fact, Ford has previously said that under its current contract with the United Auto Workers Union, which doesn’t expire until 2019, they likely can’t close any U.S. plants to move them elsewhere.

A spokeswoman for the company clarified in a statement on Thursday that Bill Ford had actually told the president-elect that the production of one type of vehicle, the Lincoln MKC SUV, would be staying in Louisville. Ford had previously considered moving that production line to Mexico so that the company could ramp up production of the better-selling Ford Escape.

Since the production of the Escape would replace any production of the Lincoln, union leaders said that no U.S. jobs would be lost, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Many major media outlets immediately jumped on Trump’s narrative without checking the facts.

Reuters:

Fortune:

Bloomberg:

ABC:

The New York Post:

Some outlets, like the Wall Street Journal, suggested that Ford’s statement validated Trump:

However, Trump tweeted about the plant, not the production of the vehicle. It’s not until four paragraphs in that the Wall Street Journal article notes the plant was never in danger of closing.

The entire plant was never going to move to Mexico.

While some of these articles clarify the facts in the body of the piece, research shows that more than half of Americans take their news just from the headlines — without reading the full articles themselves.

According to follow-up reporting by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, the decision to keep the Lincoln production in the US is indeed a response to Trump’s election: “Executives see the Lincoln move as a relatively painless but authentic way to give Mr. Trump a victory even before he moves into the White House.”

However, the policy change still will not have an impact on jobs: No jobs were to be lost before, and even with the change, likely no jobs are going to be gained. The change is, in essence, surface-level appeasement.

And yet despite Trump’s Twitter victory lap over the relatively inconsequential concession, Ford confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that the company will be moving ahead with plans to move small car production to Mexico by 2019, regardless of Trump’s election.

CEO Mark Fields emphasized that there would be “no job impact whatsoever with this move.”

This post has been updated with additional details about Ford’s motivations.