It seems that each week, another presidential action makes the news: from his extensive use of executive actions to his claims that the media is spreading fake news, President Donald Trump has had all eyes on him from his first day in office. On Feb. 18, Trump made a comment about an attack in Sweden while speaking at a rally in Florida, except the attack never happened. While discussing terrorism and terrorist attacks, Trump referenced “what’s happening [sic] last night in Sweden,” citing a Feb. 17 Fox News broadcast featuring Tucker Carlson, in which Carlson brought on American filmmaker Ami Horowitz and discussed alleged hate crimes happening in Sweden. The president’s lack of attention to detail when speaking can be detrimental to the way the world views the United States, as was seen from all the backlash he received from the media, the Swedish government and even his own constituents after this comment was broadcasted.
With the amount of division in the United States and the world at large, and with several nominees who support Trump-style politics running for foreign government positions, it is crucial for the news media to recognize the necessity of detail-oriented reporting and for Trump and Americans as a whole to be informed on foreign affairs.
Trump’s gaffs tend to garner international attention, and it is therefore imperative that he is informed on what he is speaking about, and also that he admits when he is wrong. After the comment about Sweden, many people assumed that he was speaking of a terrorist attack — which the Swedish government denied outright in a series of tweets directed at him. When he addressed the mistake, instead of stating that he was incorrect or acknowledging that referencing the news report in the context that he did may have been misleading, he decided to blame it on Fox News and their misinformed reporting. His inability to address his own downfalls and his incessant feud with the media is causing more harm than good on the international stage.
Trump has waged war on major media sources recently for their inaccurate reporting and has gone as far as to say that the media are “the enemy of the American people.” However, in this speech he attempted to use information being debated in a commentary section of a program (the video equivalent of this editorial section) and use it as hard fact. The hard fact is that he was wrong — he presumed something after watching an opinion-based broadcast and used it as a fact. Instead of apologizing for his assumption, he defended his statement by shoving yet another media outlet under the bus, this time one of his supporting sources. If president Trump wants to tell media outlets to be more informed and stop spreading misinformed or biased information, he needs to lead by example.
The 2016 election began a shift in not only American politics, but also international politics. In several countries, including France and Great Britain, hyper-nationalist, populist parties are gaining power — Marine Le Pen, France’s Front National nominee for president, and Nigel Farage, leader of the UK’s Independence party, have not only become outspoken advocates of Trump, but also have encouraged Trump-style politics in their own countries. Germany is also going through a populist movement, the Alternative Für Deutchland party is gaining momentum in the German parliament, although they are not nearly as close to holding power as the far-right Freedom Party did in Austria this past election cycle. Now more than ever, a clear understanding of the political climate around the world is necessary, and that stems from two things: proper reporting on international issues and American interest in international affairs. If our own president is ignorant of international events, it is our job to be even more vigilant and focused on how our country’s internal affairs are affecting other areas of the world. His ignorance does not need to be ours.
The faux pas with the Sweden comment is a small drop in a churning sea of international unrest. If the United States intends to maintain its position as a world powerhouse, the media, the people and the president need to work together to avoid any further miscommunications with other countries. While the Swedes were amicable in their response, other foreign governments may not be.