In its latest startling story, The Atlantic went as far as to creatively trim some of the quotes from a Twitter exchange between Donald Trump Jr and WikiLeaks to taint the whistleblowing website as a “pro-Russia, pro-Trump source.”
A wordy piece authored by Julia Ioffe and published by The Atlantic on Monday included a “largely one-sided” Twitter conversation between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr. Quoting the direct messages, the story said WikiLeaks, “a radical transparency organization,” was actively soliciting Trump Jr’s cooperation, including by asking for his father’s tax returns.
The story then repeats well-worn allegations of Russia’s involvement in the Trump presidential campaign and meddling in the 2016 US election, before rolling out the most striking passage on what WikiLeaks said was “the real kicker.”
“If we publish [Trump’s tax returns] it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” WikiLeaks explained. “That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source.”
The full stop at the end of this quote might uncover The Atlantic’s initial intent to persuade the readership WikiLeaks did unevenly admit that its carries a pro-Trump, pro-Russia bias.
The very same WikiLeaks message published earlier this week by Trump Jr himself reads: “That means the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have a much higher impact, because it won't be perceived as coming from a 'pro-Trump' 'pro-Russian' source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.”
The Atlantic did not bother to add an ellipsis or a comma at the end of the quote to indicate it did not end there – which could be taken as saying a lot about the outlet’s professional ethos. Blatant omission of the end of the quote led to a misrepresentation of what the whistleblowing website was actually implying while pitching requests to the Trump camp.
Responding on Monday, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange said the news was “incredible.”“The Atlantic edited ‘Trump Jr’ DM story to reverse its meaning even removing ‘that the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with’ right after ‘pro-Russia’. Full text changes everything.”
Ioffe seemingly tried to downplay the significance of the released DMs, retweeting Trump Jr’s messages with the comment: "There are a couple missing pages in this release." While she then soon deleted the post, mentions remained in other people’s tweets, such as “Julia Ioffe said you're missing a few pages here. So it seems you lied again. As usual,” tweeted @goostuffmaynard. Ioffe followed the post with: "My bad, didn't realize there were three tweets. Carry on!"
This, however, has led some outlets to assert that The Atlantic piece’s author actually had the full text of the messages between WikiLeaks and the younger Trump and chose to omit part of the quote on purpose.
“She read it, she analyzed it enough to figure out what was missing, but she said nothing about the fact that there were a lot more words in the sentence that she selectively edited out to convey the exact opposite of its meaning,” wrote Medium.com journalist Caitlin Johnstone. Interestingly, The Atlantic story also failed to mention that Assange’s internet connection was cut at the time some of the younger Trump’s messages were sent.
Trump Jr didn’t reply to WikiLeaks’ “real kicker” offer on tax returns, and its other proposals, such as the idea that Republican presidential hopeful Trump should challenge the results of the 2016 vote if he lost and that if elected Trump should suggest Australia appoint Assange as its ambassador to the US.
Ioffe is no stranger to controversy herself and has strong feelings against the Trumps in particular. In December 2016, she was fired from Politico after tweeting, “Either Trump is f****** his daughter or he’s shirking nepotism laws. Which is worse?” She later apologized for the tweet, saying it was “a tasteless, offensive tweet that I regret and have deleted.”