Fake news has been big news of late, and this week brought word of another problematic story—this one with links to the golf world.
It involves President Donald Trump, allegations of voter fraud and two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer, who on Thursday added his own layer of confusion to the tale by issuing a statement that appeared to get a key point wrong.
In case you missed it, here’s the background.
On Wednesday, the New York Times published a story about a recent gathering of House and Senate leaders, held in the State Dining Room and presided over by Trump.
According to three witnesses who were in the room, the Times reported, the president relayed a story to his audience which he said he’d heard directly from “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer,” whom Trump described as a supporter and a friend.
Although a White House official told the Times that the president was actually recounting a story that Langer had been told by someone else, the three witnesses “recalled Mr. Langer being a protagonist in the story,” the Times reported.
The story the president told reportedly went like this: On election day, Langer was waiting in line at a polling place near his Florida home when he was told by an official that he would not be permitted to vote—even as other people in line with the golfer “who did not appear as if they should be allowed to vote” were allowed to cast provisional ballots.
According to the Times account, the president “threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from.”
By Trump’s account, the Times reported, Langer wound up leaving the polling place “feeling frustrated.”
On the face of it, the anecdote appeared to rekindle the president’s previously debunked claims of voter fraud.
But there was a problem with the president’s account, the Times reported, starting with the fact that Langer is a German citizen who by law is not eligible to vote in this country to begin with.
As part of its reporting, the Times called Langer’s cellphone, which was answered by the golfer’s daughter, Christina, who said her father was “very busy” and unavailable to answer questions.
“He’s a citizen of Germany,” the Times quoted Christina as saying. “He is not a friend of President Trump’s, and I don’t know why he would talk about him.”
According to the Times, “a senior White House staff member, who was not at the Monday reception but has heard Mr. Trump tell the story, said Langer saw Mr. Trump in Florida during the Thanksgiving break and told him the story of a friend of Mr. Langer’s who had been blocked from voting.”
By Thursday, the Times story had been picked up by other news outlets, including GOLF.com.
At which point, Langer himself weighed in.
In a statement issued through the PGA Tour, Langer opened by saying,
“Unfortunately, the report in the New York Times and other news outlets was a mischaracterization by the media.”
Oddly, though, having charged the media with erroneous reporting, Langer went on to offer a version of events that appeared to square with the New York Times’ account.
“The voting situation reported was not conveyed from me to President Trump, but rather was told to me by a friend,” the statement read. “I then relayed the story in conversation with another friend, who shared it with a person with ties to the White House. From there, this was misconstrued.”
Misconstrued by whom is the question. Based on Langer’s own account, it appears that the New York Times reported accurately on an inaccurate story told by the president.
Langer’s statement said that he would have no further comment on the matter at this time.
A spokesperson for the PGA Tour told GOLF.com by email that the Tour would have no comment.
A spokesperson for the New York Times told GOLF.com that the paper stands by its story.