Reporters are at it again – and again, and again and again.

The latest spun-up, anti-President Trump story involves Ibtihaj Muhammad, a New Jersey native who made headlines last year when she became the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal for the United States.

Muhammad, a lifelong American citizen, claimed in an interview last week that she was detained “just a few weeks ago” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. She said she was held for a few hours without explanation.

It’s important to recognize from the get-go that Muhammad didn’t put a hard date on when the alleged detaining occurred. It’s also probably worth noting that she is an outspoken Trump critic, and that she is extremely displeased with his executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries.

Here’s a transcript of what Muhammad told Popsugar’s Lindsay Miller on Feb. 7 about the alleged incident [emphasis added]:

Popsugar: Do you know anyone who was directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban?
Ibtihaj Muhammad: Well, I personally was held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.
Unfortunately, I know that people talk about this having a lot to do with these seven countries in particular, but I think the net is cast a little bit wider than we know. And I’m included in that as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.

Many journalists skipped over the “when” of her story, and rushed to publish reports tying her anecdotal claim to the president’s immigration order.

“Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad was detained because of President Trump’s travel ban,” read a headline published by Time magazine’s Motto.

The U.K.’s Independent went with a story titled, “US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad says she was detained by customs after Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban.’

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The Daily Mail said of the incident that it, “comes after Donald Trump signed an executive order – currently suspended – banning travel from seven largely Muslim countries causing chaos in US airports.”

“U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad being detained illustrates why Trump’s Muslim ban is not who we are as Americans,” read the headline to an article published by the New York Daily News.

The Hill published an article whose opening paragraph read, “A Muslim-American Olympic medalist says she was detained by Customs for nearly two hours without explanation after President Trump’s travel ban was instituted a few weeks ago.”

Sports Illustrated and ESPN published stories whose entire purpose was to tie Muhammad’s customs tale to Trump’s immigration order, though the reports don’t come right out and say it.

Journalists reacted to the story on social media with the usual mixture of despair and outrage.

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The problem with this particular news cycle, however, is that the alleged detaining apparently occurred in December, before Trump had even been sworn in as America’s 45th president.

Muhammad noted casually several days after her Feb. 7 interview that she meant last year when she said, “just a few weeks ago.”

“Thanks to all who reached out regarding the December incident at customs. I will continue be a voice for all impacted by profiling & bigotry,” she said in a tweet on Feb. 11.

Let’s pause now to review some quick facts:

– Barack Obama was still president in December 2016, meaning Muhammad was reportedly detained under America’s 44th commander in chief.
– Trump wasn’t sworn into office until Jan. 20.
– The executive order on immigration wasn’t signed into law until Jan. 27.

To put it plainly, claims that Trump’s temporary immigration ban ensnared an American champion appear to be totally false, and by that champion’s own admission.

Before we go, a few points bear further discussion, and none of them reflect well on Muhammad or the press.

First, it’s mind-boggling that no one in that room on Feb. 7 thought to ask her for the exact date on which she was reportedly detained. It’s a basic duty of journalism to get the who, what, where, when, why and how to every story. That Muhammad’s interviewers didn’t think to pursue the “when” is astounding.

Secondly, Muhammad isn’t blameless in all of this. A less-than-charitable person would suspect her of being purposefully vague and imprecise. She was asked a simple “yes or no” question about the president’s immigration order. Instead of giving a simple answer, she provided an anecdote involving the very misleading use of “just a few weeks ago.”

Her follow up remarks in that interview are also suggestive. Here’s the next part of the transcript:

PS: That must have been a scary moment for you.
IM: It’s really hard. My human response is to cry because I was so sad and upset and disheartened — and just disappointed. At the same time, I’m one of those people who feels like I have to be strong for those people who may not be able to find that strength.
I feel like I have to speak up for those people whose voices go unheard. It was a really hard two hours, but at the same time, I made it home. I try to remember to be positive and to try to leave all these situations, even if they may be very difficult, with love. I think that we will come out on top as women, as people of color, as Muslims, as transgender people, as people who are part of the disabled community — I think that we’ll come out on top.

She’s not doing anyone any favors with this language. Her remarks seem to suggest her alleged detainment had something to do with the president’s executive order. This much is evident from the fact so many reporters took her response to mean the executive order affected her personally.

Lastly, the biggest problem with the original story and Muhammad’s eventual clarification is that they both rely on her say-so. Few, if any, reporters have attempted to corroborate her overall claim of being detained. That much is evident from the fact that several journalists thought the incident occurred post-executive order. It has not yet been proven that she was ever even detained. Spokespersons for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency and Muhammad did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.

Basically, this entire news cycle is the result of reporters rushing to fill in the blanks in vague remarks made by a Muslim woman who may or may not have been detained by U.S. Customs when Obama was still in office.

That’s some quality work.

This story has been updated.

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