Trudeau and ‘peoplekind’: The problem with dishonorable reporting
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Trudeau and ‘peoplekind’: The problem with dishonorable reporting

February 9, 2018

The Raw Data

Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.

Justin Trudeau says he ‘shouldn’t’ make ‘dumb jokes’ after ‘peoplekind’ comment

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he “shouldn’t be making jokes even when I think they’re funny,” referring to his use of “peoplekind” during a town hall meeting in Edmonton last week. At the meeting, a woman from the audience said, “Maternal love is the love that’s going to change the future of mankind.” Trudeau responded by saying, “We like to say ‘peoplekind,’ not necessarily ‘mankind,’ because it’s more inclusive.” The crowd then cheered and the woman laughed, saying, “There you go, exactly. Yes, thank you.” Some media outlets and social media users criticized Trudeau’s comment.

Read the full Raw Data here.

Distortion Highlights

  • Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau made a comment, and people’s ridicule of him went viral.
  • News outlets stripped the “joke” of context and added their own bias, opinion, sensational language, inaccuracies and faulty reasoning.
  • The result was dishonorable coverage and some of the lowest ratings ever reported on The Knife.

Show Me Everything

The Distortion

The Knife’s analysis of how news outlets distort information. (This section may contain opinion.)

Top Spin Words

  • Mansplaining

    A conservative tabloid, The Toronto Sun, accused Mr. Trudeau of “mansplaining” and unfurled footage of what it called the “gaffe-tastic” prime minister’s top three malfunctions. (The New York Times)

    He kicked it off by mansplaining to a woman that the word “mankind” was offensive and she should used the word “peoplekind” instead. (The Daily Caller)

  • Airing out its dirty laundry

    Canada’s airing out its dirty laundry. (The Daily Caller)

  • Downright annihilated

    Watch Justin Trudeau Get Downright Annihilated By A Few Good Canadians (The Daily Caller)

  • The Trudeau magic has worn off

    But the Trudeau magic has worn off, and conservative critics accused him of being smug and possibly staging public outings for their viral factor, which his administration strongly denies. (The New York Times)

  • A creature like this

    No self respecting country votes a creature like this into office. (The Daily Caller)

  • Too/so painfully politically correct

    The man is so painfully politically correct he literally invented a new word just to chew out some woman. (The Daily Caller)

    Prominent British TV broadcaster Piers Morgan and Australian columnist Rita Panahi were also critical of Trudeau for being too politically correct. (The Globe and Mail)

  • Emoji politician

    Young, tall and athletic, he was the emoji politician North America craved. Suddenly, Canada became hip. (The New York Times)

  • Easy punching bag

    Not unlike Obama, Trudeau’s progressive policies make him an easy punching bag for the U.S. right. (Toronto Sun)

  • A few jabs

    Conservative parliamentarians also got in a few jabs. (Toronto Sun)

    The Opposition Conservatives also got in a few jabs, with deputy Tory leader Lisa Raitt urging the prime minister to “person up” during a testy exchange in the House of Commons. (The Globe and Mail)

  • Ridiculed

    The remark caught the attention of media outlets outside Canada, including one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s favorite TV shows, “Fox and Friends,” which ridiculed Trudeau for the comment during a broadcast Tuesday. (The Globe and Mail)

  • Scornful

    A seemingly off-the-cuff remark by Justin Trudeau morphed into a scornful segment on one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s favorite TV shows Tuesday just as the prime minister heads to the U.S. in hopes of selling Canada’s virtues stateside. (Toronto Sun)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a comment last week at a town hall meeting in Edmonton. Responding to a woman who spoke about women’s empowerment, Trudeau suggested using the word “peoplekind” instead of “mankind.” She laughed and the crowd cheered. In context, it seemed people found the “joke” funny; others may have disagreed with his use of gender neutral language.

But news outlets stripped the comment of context and added their own disparaging opinion and bias. True, some of Trudeau’s critics did take to social media to ridicule him for his remark. But the media jumped on that bandwagon and exposed a harsh truth: in our society, if you don’t align yourself with the media’s narrative you can suffer the consequences of public humiliation and dishonor.

Conservative outlets did this most explicitly. Take a look at the Daily Caller’s headline, for instance: “Watch Justin Trudeau Get Downright Annihilated By A Few Good Canadians.” Yet outlets such as the New York Times, which have portrayed Trudeau positively in the past, also focused on Trudeau’s detractors and they became critics themselves. For instance, the Times wrote:

But the Trudeau magic has worn off, and conservative critics accused him of being smug and possibly staging public outings for their viral factor, which his administration strongly denies.

Canadian newspapers also focused on conservatives’ ridicule of Trudeau as being “too politically correct,” as The Globe and Mail put it. The Toronto Sun, a tabloid, added to what it called Trudeau’s “withering condemnation from social and mainstream media” by republishing tweets that mocked him.

The most dishonorable of the four, by far, was The Daily Caller. Don’t let its headline fool you — the article wasn’t really about the prime minister’s comment or the town hall meeting. The three lines related to the event served as a springboard for an ad hominem attack on Trudeau:

Canada’s airing out its dirty laundry. They’re having a good old fashioned parliamentary debate and now the whole world has a front row seat to witnessing just how awful Justin Trudeau really is … No self respecting country votes a creature like this into office.

None of the articles we analyzed were data-based. They relied heavily on bias, opinion, sensational language, factual inaccuracies and faulty reasoning — like that ad hominem attack.

Our “total integrity” ratings reflect these distortions. The Times, which scored the highest of the four, came in at only 35 percent integrity. That means 65 percent of its information was distorted in some way. And the Daily Caller’s article was a first for The Knife: it earned an integrity rating of… zero. Zero!

It’s become more socially acceptable to allow cynicism to pollute what’s supposed to be news reporting. And in the case of dishonor in the media, the effects are far-reaching and irrevocable. Dishonor curtails our ability to see people as fellow human beings. This disempowers civil discourse and community life. Regardless of whether you like Trudeau or not — or whether you agree with gender neutral speech or not — preserving honorable discourse is the way to a more civilized society. Dishonor moves us in the wrong direction.

The harsh reality is that the media is a reflection of us. As readers, we’re the ones who drive the market; ultimately, news outlets produce the type of content we’re willing to consume. The costs are far too great to continue as we are — not just in terms of our ability to think critically, which this type of reporting erodes, but also in our ability to resolve key societal issues. That requires respecting each other as human beings.

The Knife represents a change in media, a change in our thinking. Thank you for supporting us in crafting ethical journalism.


Is it fact or fiction? Which outlet presents the most spin?

  • 76% Spun

  • 79% Spun

  • 83% Spun

  • 89% Spun


The New York Times

“Young, tall and athletic, [Trudeau] was the emoji politician North America craved.”

Trudeau, 46, is 6’2” (1.88 m) tall. He became Canadian Prime Minister in 2015. He was a snowboarding instructor and fought in a charity boxing match in 2012.

The Daily Caller

Some criticisms of the prime minister “prov[e] to me that there are at least a few Canadians who aren’t afraid to fight dirty, boo Trudeau into submission and call him out for being the wimp he is.”

A man from the audience at one of Trudeau’s events said, “Did you run out of coloring books, Trudeau?” Some other people in the audience also voiced criticisms. During the Edmonton meeting, the crowd laughed and cheered at his “peoplekind” joke.

Toronto Sun

“The [Fox & Friends] show is known to be among Trump’s favourites, and he often posts tweets in direct response to what they are reporting. On Tuesday, however, the president appeared to be holding his thumbs.”

Trump’s tweets sometimes reference “Fox & Friends” content. They did not on Tuesday.

The Numbers

See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.

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