Donald Trump rolled out of bed this morning and immediately jumped on Twitter to assert, for the umpteenth time, that the New York Times is “fake news.” But this time around he may have given away something: his complaint about the latest article from the Times, about his relationship with Chinese President Xi, suggests that lacks even the most basic of reading of comprehension skills – to the point of not even being able to recognize the words he’s seeing.
Here is Donald Trump’s angry tweet in question, in its entirety: “The failing @nytimes does major FAKE NEWS China story saying ‘Mr.Xi has not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov.14.’ We spoke at length yesterday!” But here are the first ten words of the New York Times article he’s disputing: “President Trump told President Xi Jinping of China on Thursday evening…” See the problem here? The very first line of the article makes clear that Trump and Xi spoke yesterday, yet Trump either didn’t – or couldn’t – read it.
Instead, Trump was trying to quote from the next to the last sentence of the Times article, which reads: “Mr. Xi, stung by Mr. Trump’s unorthodox telephone call with the president of Taiwan in December and his subsequent assertion that the United States might no longer abide by the One China policy, had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14, the week after he was elected.”
And there’s the trouble: the New York Times reported that Trump “had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14″ and Trump misquoted it as “has not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14.” It’s not that Donald Trump didn’t bother to read this article before attacking it; he’s (mis)quoting a line from near the end of it. But he failed to understand the first sentence of the article, and he mistook “had” for “has” in the sentence that sent him into a mistaken rage. Is Donald Trump truly as illiterate as his latest tweet suggests?
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report