Today I’m seeing a lot of tweets like the following:
The President lied or misled the American public 19 times this morning. We have an hour long fact check now. @MSNBC
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) June 15, 2018
Today’s POTUS performance was breathtaking in the sheer number of provable falsehoods, intentional mischaracterizations and outright lies uttered. Clearly someone feels emboldened. Will GOP leaders continue to shrug this off? Bury their head in the sand?
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) June 15, 2018
Ryan Lizza ratchets up the rhetoric:
This is a bizarre, pathological, obscene, enormous, mind-numbing, frightening lie. The IG report had absolutely nothing to do with the investigation into Russian collusion or Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice. https://t.co/LTq8mEzHLw
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) June 15, 2018
I agree with Lizza, but I think we’re past the point of simply calling out Trump for his lies–including using the word “lies” to do so. There was and probably still is debate among the press to use that word, but more and more journalists and news outlets seem more willing to use it now. In my opinion, we’re way past that issue. What should the press do instead? I’m not entirely sure, but here’s one thing that comes to mind. Instead of doing a one hour fact checking show, how about doing a one hour program showing that Trump has almost no credibility and says things in bad faith far too often? And then explain how this will impact coverage from here on out.
With regard to credibility and operating in good faith, Trump has already crossed a line (maybe more than one). The issue isn’t just that he lies, but that he does so in such a way that his credibility is approach zero. It’s almost to the point where you can’t take anything he says seriously. They type and frequency of his falsehoods is such that he’s not operating with the press in good faith. He no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. We’re at the point where there’s little or no doubt that he’s operating in bad faith.
Using the word “lie” and counting his lies are trivial at this point. The problem is, what does the press do next? It seems like totally uncharted waters, and I can understand trepidation going the route I’m suggesting. I think a good way to deal with that trepidation is to make a long special report explaining the situation to the public. I think a really strong case can be made that Trump can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be treated as if he’s operating in good faith. (Why doesn’t a left-leaning outlet like MSNBC do something like this?) Part of this special report could included a decision-tree matrix for how the press determines whether a politician has lost credibility and/or the benefit of the doubt. I have a feeling the press doesn’t have such a matrix, so they’ll have to create one. (Ultimately, they should create a matrix that would help identify when a politician can be covered as an authoritarian.)
Ideally, the conservatives would be involved with this special report as well.
Here’s what continues to bother me about the situation. Imagine working with someone like Trump. At the beginning, you would probably give the person the benefit of the doubt. The first time they lie, if there’s an understandable reason, maybe you let it go. They may tell you a conspiracy theory they believe, and maybe you suspect they’re not entirely serious. But if those lies continue, and more evidence suggests they actually think in a conspiratorial fashion, their credibility would start to diminish. If they now tell lies to your face, you confront them about it, and they still maintain the lie, you’re moving into another realm. Now, you may start feeling hostile towards the person. If they start falsely accusing people in your workplace that hostility may grow, moving the situation into another realm. Each time the relationship enters a different phase, your perception and treatment of the person significantly changes as well, and that’s appropriate. That’s not happening with the press, and that bothers me.
OK, reporters calling out lies to the President’s face is something different:
"Why are you lying about it, sir?"
That's what WH transcript of Trump's remarks today TWICE records reporters asking:
1-to his repeated claim IG report "exonerated" him (it had no'g to do w/Russia probe)
2-to his blaming splitting families at border to Dems & a nonexistent law
— Jackie Calmes (@jackiekcalmes) June 15, 2018
I think this is a meaningful step.
I thought this excerpt has parallels with coverage of Trump and Trump’s handling of the press:
Here is David Halberstam on how Joe McCarthy played the journalists assigned to cover him pic.twitter.com/bZMaUwrDC0
— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) June 13, 2018