WASHINGTON (USA Today) — What did the president say and how did he say it?
That's the question behind the latest episode that has President Trump leveling accusations of "fake news" against a news outlet, this time the Wall Street Journal.
In an interview published Friday, the newspaper quoted Trump as saying, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea," the country's leader.
Trump says he said "I'd" — a contraction for "would" — that changes the meaning of what he said. In the Wall Street Journal version, Trump and Kim are friendly. In Trump's version, such a relationship might be possible under some other circumstance.
The difference is no small matter. Based on its version of Trump's quote, the Journal reported that "Trump said he believes he has developed a positive relationship with North Korea’s leader despite their mutual public insults, suggesting he is open to diplomacy after months of escalating tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program."
The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un” (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn’t say that. I said “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2018
...and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2018
The Wall Street Journal isn't backing down.
In its own tweet, the newspaper said, "We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported."
Both sides have posted their own audio recordings.
We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported. Here is audio of the portion the White House disputes. https://t.co/eWcmiHrXJg pic.twitter.com/bx9fGFWaPw— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 14, 2018
Trump said Sunday that the reporters "knew exactly what I said and meant," and deliberately misquoted him because "they just wanted a story." But the Wall Street Journal's transcript of the interview shows that the reporters understood at the time that Trump wasn't talking hypothetically. A reporter immediately followed up on Trump's comment with this exchange:
"Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader? I mean when you say a relationship with Korea ...."
"I don’t want to comment on it — I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t," Trump responded.
The spat comes days before Trump says he will announce what he calls the "Fake News Awards" to highlight stories unfair to him. He also said last week that he'll push Congress to pass legislation allowing subjects of news stories to sue for libel in federal court.
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