Fake news has become a prominent topic of public discussion, particularly among elites. Recent research has explored the prevalence of fake news during the 2016 election cycle and possible effects on electoral outcomes. This scholarship has not yet considered how elite discourse surrounding fake news may influence individual perceptions of real news. Through an experiment, this study explores the effects of elite discourse about fake news on the public’s evaluation of news media. Results show that exposure to elite discourse about fake news leads to lower levels of trust in media and less accurate identification of real news. Therefore, frequent discussion of fake news may affect whether individuals trust news media and the standards with which they evaluate it. This discourse may also prompt the dissemination of false information, particularly when fake news is discussed by elites without context and caution.
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