Trump handshake fake: Poland's president shuts down 'fake news'

Trump handshake fake: Poland's president shuts down 'fake news'

Media outlets breathlessly claim Trump was snubbed before updating their stories


Another trip to Europe, another awkward handshake moment by President Donald Trump, screamed all the headlines on Thursday after he and the first lady landed in Warsaw.

"Watch Donald Trump handshake rejected by Polish first lady in hilariously awkward exchange," read the headline in Newsweek -- yes, Newsweek! It seems the solely online political magazine is trying to be hip with the kids these days.

New York magazine, Huffington Post and CNBC all had various versions of headlines and articles informing us all on this side of the Atlantic that Agata Kornhauser-Duda had snubbed Donald Trump. Some even said Trump was frowning after she went to shake Melania Trump's hand instead.

Vanity Fair intoned in 40-point type: "The First Lady of Poland Smoothly Avoided Shaking Donald Trump's Hand," adding: "With his awkward handshake history, can you blame her?"

What all of these outlets neglected to notice was that a few seconds later, the Polish first lady did shake Trump's hand, and both smiled at each other. Vanity Fair put a note in italics at the end of its story saying it had been updated to reflect the fact that Mrs.. Kornhauser-Duda had, in fact, shaken Trump's hand.

Several of the articles did update their stories, though not the accompanying video.

Time magazine's headline was correct: "Watch Poland's First Lady Pass By President Trump's First Attempt at a Handshake." However, it's unclear whether it was originally so. A review of the url is always a good indication of what the story's original headline was, if it was changed. It says "donald-trump-agata-kornhauser-duda-handshake." Hard to tell.

But the most surprising development of all was a tweet by the president of Poland himself, in which he set the record straight: "Contrary to some surprising reports my wife did shake hands with Mrs. and Mr. Trump @POTUS after a great visit. LET'S FIGHT FAKE NEWS."

I would guess that the tweet by the Polish president is what caused the outlets who did update their stories to do so. The whole incident begs the question, why write the story in the first place?

If I were an editor at a big news outlet, I too would probably have assigned the story. This is because due to social media, these things get circulated regardless of what the media does or not. Let's hope the media sets a course correction and starts doing a little more digging (or viewing of all of the video of an event) before posting a 40-point headline.

This reminds me of the time in 2009 when Michelle Obama was criticized on social media for "hugging" Queen Elizabeth II -- which is generally frowned upon. The only difference was, most of the media were quick to give context, saying the Queen had been remarking on their height difference, and had put her arm around the then First Lady's waist. 

I can remember being upset about any fuss being made at all about the supposed faux pas made by our then-First Lady. Let’s face it: We Americans are no good at etiquette because we don’t really care about it. Except when we all become experts at it when we want to find something, anything, to make fun of President Trump about.

I'm not a fan of whataboutism, but seriously now, just imagine what the headlines would have read if Donald Trump had been in the situation described in this Guardian article: "Obama, Trudeau and Peña Nieto share awkward 3-way handshake." Because as we all know, Trump has a history of awkward handshakes Just see all these links! (I don't even remember any awkward Obama handshakes, let alone having any ink devoted to it.)


So, you may ask, why does any of this matter? It matters because the media is embarrassing itself. If they are so careless at getting these little details wrong, what could they be doing with the larger issues? We hope they are taking the trouble to give them context. Because that is something we could all use a lot more of.

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Handshake fail? Context reveals the intentions of Poland's first lady (Video)

Handshake fail? Context reveals the intentions of Poland's first lady (Video)

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