This whole “fake news” thing President Trump goes on about? It’s a lie.
And Thursday, the president of the United States stood in front of the country and lied, repeatedly.
His “news” conference was basically a 77-minute attack on legitimate, trustworthy journalists and their news organizations. And it was dead wrong.
The scandal around his campaign team’s contacts with Russia? “Russia was a fake news, fabricated deal … It’s all fake news,” he declared. If it was fake, then why did you fire Michael Flynn, your national security adviser? And there was much more like that.
Yes, it’s tempting to laugh it off and let it go. But we’ve done that enough already. It’s a serious matter when the president lies to the public over and over again.
I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years. I went to school for it, I interned, I trained, I’ve worked every hour of the day at it. So have my colleagues.
I don’t do fake news. Neither do my co-workers at WCPO. Neither does The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Cincinnati Enquirer, or any other professional, legitimate news organization.
The “fake news” lie perpetrated by Trump and his team is truly “Orwellian.” In George Orwell’s classic, “1984,” the government indoctrinates its citizens with slogans like “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery.”
In TrumpWorld 2017, lies are truth and the truth is lies.
It also Orwellian because a leading purveyor of fake news is sitting in the White House right now. His name is Steve Bannon, and he is the president’s chief strategist.
Bannon led Breitbart News, a hard-right media organization that does not care about objectivity, balance or fairness in its reporting. This was the top story on Breitbart.com today: “Insiders: Obama holdover ‘shadow government’ plotting to undermine Trump” (except the headline was in ALL CAPS).
Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? A shadow government plotting against the president of the United States? Treacherous! I wonder why no other news organizations (not even Fox News) have picked up this story. Hmmm.
Breitbart is propaganda. It is fake news. And yet its former CEO and the president he now works for sit in the White House and point fingers at credible journalism and cry “fake news.” It’s outrageous.
And it matters because the continual drumbeat influences real people.
At the Trump rally at U.S. Bank arena in Cincinnati in October, some of the crowd was whipped into a frenzy, jeering journalists, angrily giving them the finger, harassing them as they worked.
After the election, he returned to the Downtown arena for the first stop in his so-called “Thank You Tour.” Once again, working journalists were booed, and some were escorted out early after Trump called them “the very, very dishonest media.”
It’s a line he repeats over and over. But it’s a lie.
Journalists typically have pretty thick hides and can handle pushback when they report difficult stories. But to have the president routinely and repeatedly accuse principled, hard-working journalists as dishonest is wrong and dangerous.
Dangerous because, while the Russia scandal is serious and there’s probably more to come, what will happen when the next, perhaps even more serious story arises?
As Trump himself asked reporters Thursday: “What happens when I’m dealing with the problem of North Korea?”
Good question, Mr. President, good question.