The Birth of a Fake News Story

We keep hearing about fake news, but over time the fakery has become more subtle.

Take this recent headline from Newsweek for example:


The capital letters are from the online Newsweek article.  The headline leaves little doubt that Melania ordered the removal of the tree, and readers are left to speculate on what the tree did to annoy Melania.  Too much shade?  Blocking her view from the White House?  A left-over from another presidency?  We can just imagine her continuing her elite demands and even a suggestion of letting the hungry eat cake.

Most of the people who saw that headline probably didn’t read the actual story, leaving them with a less approving opinion of our first lady.

But the headline simply distorts the truth.  Intentionally?  Probably.

I used to live in Nashville, near the Hermitage that served as home for Andrew Jackson (who you no doubt remember from American History class as the seventh president of the United States).  When President Jackson’s wife died, he took a seedling from a magnolia tree at the Hermitage that his wife had loved and transplanted it to the White House grounds.

If you have an old twenty dollar bill you will find a picture of the tree on the reverse side.  The tree has survived a long time, although in the past few decades it has needed a lot of help to stand up.  An intricate system of cables, wires, and steel poles have been helping it remain standing.

Sadly, Time has continued to take its toll on the tree, and the groundskeepers judged that it was time to remove the tree before it split further and fell over to its death.  Mere groundskeepers cannot make major changes without permission from the White House, so papers were drawn up and presented to Melania along with plans for the future.

Melania merely approved the removal of the tree, but she also approved numerous seedlings be saved from the tree the same way a seedling was used to plant the tree in the Capital.  Once the dust settles from the removal, one or more seedlings will be planted to grow in its place, keeping the Magnolia site intact.

I get that a lot of folks do not like the Twitter-master who currently occupies the White House, but that’s no reason to attack the first lady, especially when she is doing her best to maintain the historical integrity of the White House.  Newsweek quickly edited their original story to more closely match the facts, but they’ve stubbornly kept the misleading headline.

Dorsey Burnett was an early Rockabilly singer who formed a trio named the Rock and Roll trio with his younger brother Johnny and their friend Paul Burlison.  The group broke up before it had any success, and the members went their separate ways.  Johnny was the most successful solo act, scoring hits starting with Dreamin’ and You’re Sixteen.  Dorsey did manage to dent the top forty with There Was A Tall Oak Tree and later had a long string of semi-successful Country hits.