A group of lawmakers has expressed official concern over President Donald Trump's media diet.
"We are concerned about the process by which you receive information," Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology wrote (pdf) to Trump on Thursday, describing the president as "vulnerable to misinformation and fake news."
The letter cited Politico reporting from earlier this week, which revealed that deputy national security advisor K.T. McFarland at one point "had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter."
According to Politico, "Trump quickly got lathered up about the media's hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that's circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it."
Such incidents have "been a recurring issue with your administration," the Democrats wrote in their letter Thursday. "You previously made the false claim that President [Barack] Obama ordered your phones to be 'tapped' based on false reports which have subsequently been contradicted by senior U.S. intelligence officials. You also falsely stated that millions of votes were cast against you 'illegally' after reading about subsequently-debunked 'research' pushed by alt-right websites. This, by no means, is a comprehensive list of your activities peddling fake news."
And "where scientific policy is concerned," this pattern is especially troubling to the lawmakers, who noted that under Trump, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)—established in 1976 "to provide the president and others within the executive office of the president with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics," according to its website—has been left "largely unstaffed and without a director."
"Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news," the Democrats declared.
Popular Science, which first obtained and reported on the letter, pointed out that the missive "is not the first time that the administration has received criticism over its apparent disregard for science and the scientific process."
Indeed, Trump and his fossil fuel-soaked cabinet have been charged with waging a War on Science—from tapping unqualified individuals for top science and environment posts, to undermining research across multiple federal agencies, to targeting key programs with deep budget cuts.
And this anti-science campaign has only been aided by climate-denying Republicans. In fact, in December, the Democrats' GOP counterparts on the House Science Committee came under fire for tweeting a misleading article from right-wing, white nationalist website Breitbart News—one written by a climate denier and debunked by actual scientists.
Perhaps they need to rethink "the process by which [they] receive information," as well.