Members Only | October 17, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Calling Out Trump’s Lies Isn’t Enough
The press corps must raise awareness of what's happening.
“President Trump has made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days” was a Monday headline in the Post. That raises the questions: Will Donald Trump ever face any kind of consequence for lying at virtually the same rate as he breathes?
You could say he has. His approval rating has been underwater since the beginning. Lately, public support for his impeachment has reached majority status. But the approval rating is the more important of the two public opinion measures, and it’s been rock steady despite countless scandals and outrages. And if bad polling is punishment, and punishment is a deterrent, well, it ain’t working like it should.
This president has a boundless appetite for mendacity.
Indeed, this president appears to have a boundless appetite for mendacity. In fairness, though, why would there be limits? With a tweet, Trump can dominate the news cycle thanks to the press corps’ habit of repeating and amplifying whatever he says, however many times he says it, without due consideration of its truthfulness. It’s hard to put sole blame on the alcoholic when everyone around him is pressing a drink in his hand.
When the press does call out Trump’s mendacity, as when reporters make explicit that a statement is misleading, false or a lie, they repeat it anyway. American journalists have not figured out that civil society needs a moral press responsible for monitoring the legitimacy of viewpoints engaged in the discourse of a liberal democracy. Worse, the press corps is not saying what needs saying most, because it doesn’t know what needs saying. And it doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know, because it’s anti-moral.
Here’s what I mean.