When lecturing the media about honesty, Sarah Sanders repeated a widely debunked lie about the media and Osama bin Laden.
During a recent press briefing, Sarah Sanders clamored up on her high horse to talk down to the media, lecturing the White House press corps about their responsibility to accurately report the news.
But during her scolding, Sanders embarrassed herself by repeating a widely debunked urban myth that the media compromised U.S. intelligence on Osama bin Laden by reporting on a satellite phone he used.
“We certainly support a free press,” Sanders said at the briefing. “But we also ask that people act responsibly and report accurately and fairly.”
Then she dropped this whopper.
"The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools,” she claimed. "One of the worst cases was the reporting on the U.S. ability to listen to Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone in the late ’90s. Because of that reporting, he stopped using that phone and the country lost valuable intelligence."
The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Sanders "Four Pinocchios," the worst possible rating, for using a "bogus talking point."
This "urban myth" about the media and bin Laden, the Post explains, originated in a book about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and subsequent report from the Sept. 11 commission.
A 1998 article published in the conservative Washington Times reported that bin Laden used a satellite phone.
However, the article never said that American intelligence agencies were listening in on the conversations, as Sanders claimed it did. Further, many other media outlets reported bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, some as early as 1996, and some with the Taliban as their source.
The author of the Washington Times article told the Post that bin Laden's use of a satellite phone was widely known and in the public domain when he wrote the 1998 story.
The Post concludes that "a quick Google search" could have found information debunking this myth.
CNN also called Sanders' assertion "false," noting it was previously debunked.
Perhaps even worse, Sanders lied about the press in response to a question about how to keep members of the media safe in the Trump era.
The question was about menacing behavior towards the press at Trump rallies — especially the recent rally in Tampa, Florida, in which the vicious behavior of Trump supporters made CNN reporter Jim Acosta worry about "somebody getting hurt."
Sanders used an important question about violence towards journalists to lecture journalists about how to do their jobs — and lie about how their jobs actually work.
Meanwhile, Sanders represents a man who has lied more than 4,200 times since arriving at the White House. Sanders herself is routinely mocked for the sheer volume of lies she tells from her perch as White House press secretary.
Sadly, it comes as no surprise that Sanders would peddle in falsehoods even while lecturing others about honesty.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.