During campaign season Trump shared more Breitbart links to his more than 15 million followers than any other news organization (in August Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon joined Trump's campaign as CEO and will enter the West Wing in January as Trump's senior White House adviser). While Trump also shares links from mainstream sites — his second most shared site during the time period analyzed was the Washington Post — Trump's preferred content seems to be right-leaning, hyper-partisan sites and opinion blogs including Daily Caller (21 links), Newsmax (18), the Gateway Pundit (14 links), the Conservative Treehouse (11), the Political Insider (1), Conservative Tribune (1), Infowars (1), newsninja2012.com (5), and westernjournalism.com (1). Trump's Twitter account also shares links from a number of obscure personal blogs, like agent54nsa.blogspot.com, which hosted a joke post about a fake game show about Monica Lewinsky hosted by a character named "Stink Fartinmale."
Trump rarely shares the kind of flagrantly concocted fake news stories promoted by Macedonian teens. Yet the president-elect does seem to have an affinity for factually murky stories bolstered by opinion, circumstantial evidence, and hearsay that appear generally supportive of his most controversial statements. Frequently throughout the presidential campaign Trump tweeted stories that seemed to back up his claims that "thousands" of Muslims cheered from New Jersey rooftops as the World Trade Center towers fell on 9/11, despite no evidence from police or confirmed news reports. Other Trump-tweeted stories include a Breitbart piece with the headline, "Trump 100% Vindicated: CBS Reports 'Swarm' On Rooftops Celebrating 9/11" and a New York Post piece about Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen allegedly celebrating on 9/11.
These stories prove slippery in their presentation by Trump or in their framing of the facts they claim to report. The Post headline, despite Trump's insistence, does little to bolster his claim — Mateen was a teen in school in Florida and not in New Jersey, where Trump claimed the cheering took place. And while the Breitbart headline suggests "swarms" of cheering Muslims, the video evidence — in the form of a Sept. 16, 2001, local newscast — shows only anecdotal evidence of cheering (framed as such by the newscasters). The reference to a "swarm" overstates the anecdote which notes that a group of eight individuals possibly of Muslim faith were arrested in New Jersey after 9/11.
Like a number of the stories Trump shares via Twitter, strong headlines and flimsy evidence are touted as vindication of a controversial claim, but leave the vigilant reader with the daunting task of proving a negative.
BuzzFeed News' analysis shows that, despite Trump's repeated claims of a deeply biased mainstream media, the president-elect shares news stories from a high number of traditional media outlets. Throughout the course of the campaign, Trump frequently tweeted from mainstream organizations like the Washington Post (26), New York Post (22), The Hill (21), Politico (15), CNN (12), USA Today (10), Bloomberg (7), Forbes (7), CBS News (6), ABC News (5), and NBC News (5) among others. In nearly every instance, the stories shared were news items about polls that favored Trump (many from the primaries) or negative articles about Hillary Clinton — many of them aggregations of WikiLeaks emails.
It's hard not to look at the the frequency and demeanor of Trump's tweeting of mainstream outlets and not see a desire for validation from the nation's biggest traditional newsrooms. When covered positively, Trump's response is effusive — in one response to an article from the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, Trump remarks "it is a true person of character that can change his opinion & do what is right."
But such accolades are often supplanted — if not eradicated — at the first sign of adversarial coverage. In July 2015, for example, Trump fired off a tweet praising a "great article" in Politico Magazine by Rich Lowry. Nine months later, Trump's tune had changed. "Wow, @Politico is in total disarray with almost everybody quitting," Trump tweeted. "Good news — bad, dishonest journalists!"