If you’ve spent time on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the phrase “retweets do not equal endorsements.” It’s largely self-explanatory: sometimes folks retweet something they find notable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like the content.
But in the Trump era, we’re confronted with a very different kind of question: do presidential retweets equal confirmations?
Fox News ran a report yesterday on North Korea, which pointed to some provocative moves on the part of the U.S. adversary.
Despite the United States’ insistence that North Korea halt its missile tests, U.S. spy agencies detected the rogue communist regime loading two anti-ship cruise missiles on a patrol boat on the country’s east coast just days ago.
It’s the first time these missiles have been deployed on this type of platform since 2014, U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region told Fox News on Monday. It also points to more evidence that North Korea isn’t listening to the diplomatic threats from the West.
Fox’s report, which hasn’t been independently verified, relied on leaks from unnamed U.S. officials, who apparently shared highly sensitive information with the network.
These anonymous sources, Fox News said, had “knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region.”
All of this would ordinarily seem like a routine report, were it not for one thing: on Twitter this morning, Donald Trump retweeted Fox News’ report without comment, highlighting the story for his 35 million followers – and anyone else who happens to check his page.
It’s often challenging to understand what the American president is thinking, but what exactly are we to make of something like this? Because at face value, Trump seems to be confirming a report based on anonymous leaks of sensitive national security information.
After all, the president receives daily intelligence briefings – even during his 17-day vacation – which would include the latest information on North Korea. Trump, in other words, would be in a position to know whether Kim Jong-un’s regime really did load two anti-ship cruise missiles onto a patrol boat on the country’s east coast just days ago.
By retweeting the report, Trump appears to be giving the report his stamp of approval – since if the story were wrong, the president probably wouldn’t be promoting it.
The question for the White House is simple: why is the president using his social-media accounts to confirm reports based on leaks of sensitive intelligence?