Trump's lying presents a conundrum
Posted 7/24/18 (Tue)
Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman
Journalists are supposed to report the truth. They are also supposed to tell both sides of a story.
But when presented with a president like Donald Trump, reporting the truth and telling both sides has presented a dilemma.
No matter where you stand on the president’s policies, it’s pretty hard to ignore some of the whoppers that come out of his mouth.
I saw a meme online this weekend that, at first glance, I really liked. It went something like this, minus the profanity:
“If someone says it’s raining and someone else says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Look out the window and find out which is true.”
Ah! If only it were that simple.
More than a year ago, I wrote about how I was consciously exposing myself to a variety of political viewpoints on Trump, rather than stay within my own bubble. I continue to do this. I switch the car radio on long trips between CNN and Fox News.
Clearly, there is no agreement among journalists whether it is raining or dry. And as I have been pointing out since the Bush administration, if you’re set on listening to only one viewpoint, you’re probably going to settle on the one that best suits your personal reality -- not one that challenges your own status quo.
Observing the difference in coverage following the Helsinki summit and the subsequent walk-backs of Trump statements, ie., would vs. wouldn’t, what the definition of “no” is, and whether or not anyone was giving serious consideration to handing over a former U.S. ambassador for interrogation in Russia, was as schizophrenic a narrative as I have ever come across.
Journalists at CNN and Fox are mighty divided on whether the president’s performance was appropriate or blown out of proportion.
And that brings me back to the meme. The discussion thread resulting from the post generated lots of comment from fellow journalists.There was a huge disagreement running the gamut from those who feel the press gives Trump too big a pass by not labeling his many misstatements and exaggerations as lies -- to those who believe it’s wrong to report the misstatements at all, because they’re not factual.
Initially, I fell in the camp of reporting everything the president says because, true or not, what he says matters, thereby fitting the definition of news. Ultimately, however, just reporting what someone says and reporting that other people disagree with some of his statements no longer works because what constitutes “the truth” no longer seems to be based in fact.
The facts, as I know them, are that thousands of the president’s statements have been documented to be false.
Further, I have seen many of these untruths fall from his lips with my own eyes, live, on television.
Other statements Trump has claimed were never made have later been proven to exist, ie., the tape criticizing Theresa May, which Trump claimed was “fake news.”
And in their rush -- to either defend his gaffes as no big deal, or else assemble montages of tape proving him wrong -- CNN and Fox only play to their own bases.
I don’t like seeing CNN news people laughing over the ridiculousness of the whole “would-wouldn’t” walkback anymore than I enjoy listening to Tucker Carlson holler at a congressman.
The whole mess stinks, frankly, but this is serious, serious business.
Do I think Trump is a liar? Yes. Do I wish people would stop defending his lies or pointing out how Obama lied more? Yes, because whatever Obama did is no longer as important as what Trump will lie about next.
Is there any truth that all of us, as Americans can agree on?
There may be one.
The Senate voted unanimously last week, stating the U.S. “should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin.”
But it’s not binding.
And that’s the truth.