Case Number: 2983

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2020

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Mediaworks

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Comment and Fact


Geoff Waterhouse complains that a piece published online by “FakeNewshub” on November 14 was fake news.

The article Four more years of Trump would’ve been NZ’s ‘worst nightmare’. Expert says – but Biden suits us better.The article extensively quotes the views of Robert Patman, a politics professor at Otago University, particularly in relation to trade. It outlines his reasons for contending that four more years of Trump may have been bad news for NZ.

Mr Waterhouse maintains “this implies that Donald Trump has not been re-elected and is totally untrue as the election has not been called by the GSA” [Government Services Agency.]

He further maintains that the sentence “Trump lost the US election to Democratic opponent Joe Biden earlier this month and Robert Patman says it is good for New Zealand that he did” is incorrect in the first part and pure opinion rather than statement of fact in the second.

Mr Waterhouse has several other complaints about the article that can be summed up in one of his sentencesRead my writing “Biden hasn’t won!”

As is common in most democracies around the world the results of elections are "called" by media organisations as soon as sufficient votes have been counted to indicate who the winner is and this is the time when most candidates concede or claim victory. Formal declarations follow at a later date after tallies are completed and challenges dealt with.

The outcome of the US presidential race was apparent within a few days of the election and President Trump's reluctance to concede does not alter the fact or make it fake news. The major news organisations, including Fox News, called the election for Biden. These initial calls have since been confirmed by formal declarations in all states in the lead up to the Electoral College vote which will make the result official.

The Newshub story was based on the widely accepted understanding that President Trump had lost the election and the remarks made by Robert Patman about the implications for US-NZ relations are fair comment. They were clearly identified as his opinion and were based on undisputed fact.

Further, President Trump’s views to the contrary have been given a wide airing by the media, and this can be seen as a long running issue where the public is aware of his contrary views.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to proceed.

The Media Council notes that the Electoral College vote of December 14 endorsed the result of the presidential election and confirmed Joe Biden as president-elect of the United States of America. This has now been recognised by the Republican US Senate leader Mitch McConnell.


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