The Mainstream Media is Still Afraid of Using the Word ‘Lied’ When Speaking of Trump

Don't give us all this grand talk about democracy dying in darkness if you're refusing to turn on your flashlight.

The Mainstream Media is Still Afraid of Using the Word ‘Lied’ When Speaking of Trump

Donald Trump whines a great deal about imagined persecution from the mainstream media, for example, the other day complaining about the media being “rude” to his representatives.

One thing, however, the rest of us notice, is that far from persecuting the would-be tyrant, they’re still reluctant to even to report on Donald Trump accurately. For want of a better word, to call a spade a spade; to call Donald Trump a liar.

Guantanamo prosecutor Col. Morris Davis made a point of this reluctance with a Washington Post headline, and remember, it is the Washington Post‘s new slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness” that is seen as being anti-Trump by the likes of Fox & Friends.

The headline used by WaPo is “Sean Spicer is wrong about deductibles under Obamacare.”

Sean Spicer was not “wrong.” The Washington Post is wrong. Because Sean Spicer lied.

There is a difference. The one implies an honest mistake. The other implies knowledge aforethought. Does anyone even at The Washington Post imagine Spicer did not know he was speaking a falsehood?

In the article referenced by Davis, writer Carolyn Johnson does not use the word “lied” even once.

In another Wonkblog post yesterday, we learn that “Trump’s budget chief says Obama fudged jobs data. If that were true, he’d be able to prove it.”

It would be just as easy, and far more accurate, to say “Trump’s budget chief lies about Obama fudging jobs data.” It’s not a matter of him being able to prove it. He can’t prove it because it’s a lie.

Democracy dies in darkness. And failure to shine a light on the Trump administration’s lies does nothing to illuminate that darkness. Rather, because darkness is an absence of light, it creates it.

We all look to intrepid Trump fact-checker Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star to illuminate Trump’s many lies. The Toronto Star maintains Dale’s growing list of them, after all. Yet the Star boasts headlines like,

“Donald Trump said 11 false things in his first major TV interview as president.” It’s not “11 false things.” It’s 11 lies. Let’s be frank and honest about this. You can say something somebody said without outright saying they’re lying.

A lie is, according to the dictionary, a “deliberately false statement” whereas “false” means only “not correct,” “wrong,” or “invalid.” And given the Trump administration’s track record – and that of Donald Trump himself – nobody should be under any illusion at this point that all of them are lying.

There are numerous examples. The media also refused to say Trump was lying about his inaugural attendance numbers. The New York Times, another outlet regularly attacked by Trump as “fake news,” also preferred the word “false” to “lie”:

“With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift” was their headline. False claims, yes, but knowingly false, and therefore, more accurately, lies.

This is despite a call by Dan Barry back in January in that same paper to call a lie what it is, that words like “falsely” or “wrongly” “tend to weaken the impact” of what is said. As Barry concluded, words matter.

We see far too little evidence of this belief, however, from mainstream media outlets, and including the Times, who by and large prefer what Barry calls less “muscular” terminology.”

The media has to stop excusing not only Donald Trump’s behavior and rhetoric, normalizing both, but it has to start telling the truth about Trump’s lies. Trump may well keep himself ignorant – but even when he clearly knows the truth, he prefers to lie.

Rule of thumb: if Trump’s lips are moving, he’s lying. Lying shamelessly, like when he lied that he would release his tax returns. Or when he lied about not knowing the journalist who revealed his 2005 tax returns on Maddow last night.

Shame on Donald Trump. And shame on the mainstream media for refusing to say so. And don’t give us all this grand talk about democracy dying in darkness if you’re refusing to turn on your flashlight.

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