In yet another example of a media outlet reporting a “bombshell” that damaged President Donald Trump only to retract its central claim, The Wall Street Journal had to issue a major correction on a story about North Korea developing nuclear weapons after the leaders of the two countries met.
On Thursday, the paper claimed that Defense Intelligence Agency analysts believed the isolated nation had developed up to 12 nukes since Trump met with the nation’s dictator, Kim Jong-Un, in June 2018. As The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross pointed out, various news outlets – including The New York Post, The Hill, and Business Insider – picked up the WSJ’s claims.
“Analysts at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency say North Korea’s scientists may have produced 12 nuclear weapons since the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore last year. In total, Pyongyang could currently possess between 20 and 60 nuclear bombs, according to estimates by various security analysts,” WSJ initially reported.
The correction came two days later, on Saturday.
“A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that analysts at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said North Korea could have produced 12 nuclear weapons since the Trump-Kim handshake in Singapore in June 2018. (July 27, 2019)”
The significant correction also included edits throughout the piece. The paragraph about the 12 nuclear weapons has been deleted, and there is no longer a reference to Defense Intelligence Agency analysts. Instead, the article describes now its sources as analysts from a non-government analysts, who say North Korea has continued to develop its long-range missile capabilities and fissile materials, but say nothing about creating actual nuclear weapons.
The original bombshell report was used to knock Trump for seemingly placing confidence in Kim. The Hill noted Trump’s past optimism regarding the North Korean dictator, including the belief Kim would not test nuclear weapons.
“One of the things, importantly, that Chairman Kim promised me last night is, regardless, he’s not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear,” Trump said after meeting with Kim in February. “Not going to do testing. So I trust him, and I take him at his word. I hope that’s true.”
The Hill has added a correction to their article in line with that of the Journal’s.
The New York Post added that the report and photos of the alleged nuclear weapons “suggest that despite hopeful rhetoric from the two sides, the North continues to have no intention of surrendering its nuclear arsenal. The outlet also reported that a “second meeting between Trump and Kim in February ended in failure after the United States abruptly ended negotiations.” As of this writing, the Post has not corrected its story.
As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald previously reported, the media has consistently reported “bombshells” meant to embarrass Trump (his article focus solely on the alleged Russian collusion story). The most significant example was CNN’s report that Donald Trump Jr. received an email about an upcoming batch of Democratic National Committee emails from Wikileaks. It turned out the photo they were sent had an altered date in the email, making it appear as though Trump Jr. received the email before the release, when he, in fact, received it after.