Media must hold Trump accountable for misinformation
I interviewed my first real-life Republican fabulist about four years ago. She was a Black woman who accused Latinos of ruining African-American neighborhoods and claimed it was illegal to fly another country’s flag in the United States. I’ve always known that Republicans were fond of questionable facts, but interviewing one was a surreal experience. It was like being hit with a water hose of lies. I wrote the story and included her outlandish ideas. Then at the bottom of the story, I added a fact check on all the lies she had mentioned.
This was a forewarning of what was to come in the Trump era. Unfortunately, too many journalists didn’t follow the same principles. Maybe it was because they never took his run seriously, or maybe it was because they were directed by news executives to give him full coverage because he was “good for ratings,” but back in 2016, the press let Donald Trump spew lies, untruths and false narratives unabated. According to The New York Times, he received $2 billion of free media. Much of that media was uncritical of him.
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The New York Times got a lot of heat after it published online on June 3, 2020, a column by Arkansas Senator Tom…
Some Americans still believe Trump
Unfortunately, a lot of this garbage sank into the media ecosystem and continues to bubble up. Trump’s election only reinforced the fact that too many Americans don’t have any critical thinking skills. Even though Trump has told 20,000 lies, a large chunk of the American public still thinks he’s a credible source of information.
Trump is a pathological liar, and as a conman, he’s made lying part of his business regimen. In her recent book, his niece, Mary Trump, claims he lies to everyone, business associates, MAGA cultists, even family members, sometimes over minutiae. She suggests he enjoys deceiving people.
Every other day, I read a story of a high-profile Republican who’s either died from or been infected with the coronavirus because they refused to wear a mask and practice social distancing. (Former presidential candidate Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert are just the latest.)
In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump dismissed it as a hoax, claimed it would just go away and said “he didn’t like the look of masks.” He also accused a masked reporter of being “politically correct,” proving that he was clueless about the coronavirus and had a poor grasp of the English lexicon. How many of the 150,000 Americans who died from the COVID-19 outbreak listened to Trump and refused to practice safety precautions?
Press remembers its mission
However, the press seems to have finally rediscovered its mission and have started fact-checking and pressing Trump on his lie-ridden outbursts. Trump is a pathological liar, and, as a conman, he’s made lying part of his business regimen. In her recent book, his niece, Mary Trump, claims he lies to everyone, business associates, MAGA cultists, even family members, sometimes over minutiae. She suggests he enjoys deceiving people.
Faced with an interview subject like this, journalists have to fact check every sentence he utters. If his statements are proven to be untrue, don’t repeat them or run a disclaimer at the end of the article, as I did.
And that’s what many other journalists are beginning to do. You can see this in White House press conferences. Some journalists are beginning to push back against Trump’s misinformation.
Trump crumbles under fact-checking
It was also witnessed with Trump’s recent interview with Chris Wallace on “FOX News Sunday.” He was caught in a lie that claimed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to defund the police. (He actually wants to give them more money.) Wallace also caught the president lying about the rate of COVID-19 testing in the United States and the infection rate among young children among other issues.
He was also brutally fact-checked by “Axios” reporter Jonathan Swan in an interview scheduled to air on HBO on Monday evening. Swan caught Trump attempting to dismiss reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan. On the coronavirus, Trump started ranting about evidence from “the manuals” and claimed “people are saying.” Swan kept asking for proof to back up his claims, which he couldn’t provide. Finally, Trump fell back on his tried and true weapon of calling any news he doesn’t like “fake news.”
Apart from coming across as ignorant and dangerously uninformed, he also repeated Russian propaganda. This was one of his worst interviews to date and another reason why he has no business in the Oval Office.
Swan and Wallace have laid out a guideline to interviewing Trump. Fact-check everything he says, always ask for evidence and assume he’s not telling the truth. Ultimately, he can’t provide information to back up his claims, because it doesn’t exist. Trump just makes things up. He’s not a credible source of information and the media needs to treat everything he says with a grain of salt.
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