Ever since yesterday’s Hardball interview with Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, there have been a lot of people on social media posting that he could not name a single foreign leader. Headlines from sites like NBC News, The New York Times, and USA Today seem to confirm that.
Even NPR is guilty of a misleading headline, but it seems to have been updated now.
But is that what really happened? Let’s take a look at the interview.
What actually happened is that he was asked who his favorite current foreign leader is and he couldn’t think of anyone. He poked fun at himself and said he had an “Aleppo moment.” That’s hardly the same thing as being unable to name a current leader period. Some will then say, “Okay, you’re right. But he’s still an idiot for not being able to name a favorite leader.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s uneducated about other leaders, just that there’s none that he currently admires. From his point of view, that makes sense. He has a libertarian viewpoint, which means few, if any, current leaders would be great in his mind. A liberal might respond, “But I like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada! How can he not know about him?” Okay, that’s fine if you like Trudeau. Johnson may know who he is, but that doesn’t mean he admires him.
Johnson tweeted today that he still can’t name one he admires, affirming that there simply aren’t any that fit his views.
My point here isn’t to convince you to support Gary Johnson or agree with his answer. One can argue something else he actually said that they disagree with, but that isn’t what this is about. It’s about spreading false information and how we can prevent ourselves from doing this. I’ve seen skeptics – who’ve scolded others for believing things based on misleading headlines – do it themselves with this Johnson interview. Just because you dislike a candidate doesn’t mean the methods of fact checking and reading before you share suddenly don’t apply. I am not a Trump supporter, but I will correct people who make inaccurate claims about him. I wish people who dislike libertarian ideals would do the same.
It’s also disappointing that multiple news sites did this: News sources that many people would consider to be legitimate. It’s bad enough when BuzzFeed, InfoWars, or The Free Thought Project have misleading headlines, but most people expect more from NPR and The New York Times.