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Donald Trump’s remarks about Civil War generals spurs debate over media’s coverage

October 13, 2018

President Trump sparked debate on social media Friday evening by calling Robert E. Lee a “great general” during a campaign rally Friday, drawing scrutiny over his remark as well as the media’s reaction, with many conservatives complaining of news outlets cutting out the full context.

Mr. Trump referenced the Confederate Army general and his Union counterpart, Ulysses S. Grant, toward the end of a “Make America Great Again” rally near Cincinnati during a diatribe that eventually concluded with the president praising Grant, an Ohio native, for winning the Civil War.

“Robert E. Lee was a great general, and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia,” Mr. Trump said during the event. “He couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee.”

“Lincoln had almost developed a phobia because he was having a hard time with a true great fighter and a great general, Robert E Lee,” Mr. Trump said moments later. “But Grant figured it out, and Grant is a great general, and Grant came from right here.”

Several media outlets covered Mr. Trump’s initial quote about Lee while ignoring the end of his anecdote, prompting backlash from conservatives and cries of “fake news.”

Right-wing commentators including Dinesh D’Souza and talk show host Joe Pagliarulo were among conservatives who took aim at NBC News for sharing a video on Twitter that only showed the first half of the president’s remarks.

“Deliberately taken out of context,” tweeted Mr. D’Souza. “Trump is actually praising Grant for defeating the acclaimed Lee. But NBC pretends that Trump is praising the Confederacy #FakeNews”

“If you didn’t know the context, NBC was hoping to convince you Trump was praising Lee out of the blue,” tweeted Mr. Pagliarulo, the host of “The Joe Pags” radio show. “Sick,” he tweeted.

John Noonan, a staffer for Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, similarly took umbrage was an article published by The Washington Post that claimed the president had praised the Confederate general.

“This headline is appalling. Not only is it unfair and in bad-faith, it completely misrepresents what was said. Gotcha journalism at its worst,” tweeted Mr. Noonan. “I’d expect this out of a place like Mother Jones or Slate. Not the Washington Post.”

“No journalists don’t just get it wrong. It’s deliberate. Fake news about what Trump said on Lee/Grant is just one more example how they are always wrong only one direction -- left,” echoed Dan Gainor of the conservative media watchdog group NewsBusters.

Conservatives were not the only Twitter users appalled by the media’s coverage of Mr. Trump’s remarks, however.

“I’m a raging liberal and this is irresponsible,” tweeted writer and director Miles Kahn. “Why do you need to even take this idiot out of context? He says a dozen falsehoods a day? Why give him a win by doing shoddy journalism? ”

“Trump’s remarks about Lee/Grant weren’t bad when read in context. Lots of other stuff to criticize Trump on, no need for ginned-up outrage,” tweeted Jeet Heer, a writer for The New Republic, a liberal magazine.

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