The media should confront politicians about their lies directly, by calling them liars

The United States is in an existential fight for its democratic soul and its American values. Media VIPs should treat lying politicians accordingly.

Jeb Hensarling (image credit: Dallas Morning News)

On my way into work Thursday morning, I listened to an interview of Congressman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. I counted 11 lies (although several were repeated) in an interview that lasted 3 minutes and 51 seconds, of which half was the interviewer, NPR Morning Edition’s David Greene. Friday morning I heard Steve Inskeep interview Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on the subject of the Trump Tax and I counted at least 10 lies. In both cases, Greene and Inskeep tried to push back against some of the lies with their own information, citing studies that disproved Hensarling’s or Ryan’s bullshit, but both politicians were able to wriggle away by turning the studies into a case of “he said, she said” false equivalency.

What will it take for interviewers like Greene and Inskeep to say “with all due respect, sir, what you just said is a lie? Here’s why.” Publicly, on air, directly to the professional liars political hacks sitting in front of them? What does it take for a White House correspondent to stand up, in front of live TV cameras, and walk out when Sarah Huckabee Sanders lies about what Donald meant? Or, better yet, for all the White House correspondents (those with a soul, anyway) to refuse to play Sanders’ humiliating anti-press games?

I realize that any journalist who does this is burning his or her bridges. Their access will be cut off, the interviewee will likely stand up and walk out, and they may be unofficially blacklisted by the interviewee and his or her allies. I understand that. But let’s look at the situation in the United States of America circa December, 2017.

Donald Trump, who is walking steadily toward becoming a modern-day Benito Mussolini when he’s not showing signs of dementia severe enough that he’s unfit to make his own tea, was elected President in 2016. The Republicans control both houses of Congress and are unwilling to even hold hearings on changing healthcare or fair tax reform, never mind actually work to find solutions with the Democrats. The federal judiciary is under assault. Pedophilia doesn’t seem to be a disqualifying characteristic for a Senate candidate. Democratic norms that have stood for a century or longer are under attack from all sides.

If now isn’t the time for hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners journalism, there will never be a time for that. Because if it doesn’t happen now, the values written into our Constitution – our American values – could be wiped away by anti-democratic, authoritarian, anti-intellectual, theocratic liars in government, starting with nearly all Republican Congressmen and Donald Trump.

And if you think that’s a false “slippery slope argument,” allow me to point out a few things: Of the 570 unique examples of horrible behavior by the President and his Administration I’ve documented between July 1 and November 30 (November’s list will be published on Monday, December 4), 165 were authoritarian. Another 53 were outright fascist, in a 1930s, Benito Mussolini kind of way. 82 attacked the rule of law. 37 demonstrated a lack of respect for equal protection under the law. 46 showed disdain for expertise and intellect. 56 were anti-science.

The United States is in the worst place it’s been since the end of the Civil War. It’s time that journalists treat the topics, and politicians, they’re reporting on accordingly.

4 replies »

  1. The other day I saw a clip of SHS just warming up at the podium in front of the press. I turned the volume down and watched instead of listened. The only important moment of communication was in the first 2-3 seconds before she said the first word. It was in her facial expression. I’m pretty sure you can see the same 2-3 seconds before any of her pressers. It’s the glance around the room and the smile that we mistake (or are supposed to mistake) for “what a great day to be addressing you fine people.” No.

    It’s smugness, pure and simple. She knows the game that is about to unfold. Every reporter in the room knows the game that’s about to unfold. She, or Spicer (or Earnest or Gibbs before that, or as far back as you want to go) know that they are about to lie and/or spin their way roughshod over reality. The press will pantomime its objections and then dutifully rubberstamp it as straight reportage because the fact of this person speaking is news, somehow. It’s the smug smirk of “I’m going to spoonfeed you grade A bullshit and you’re going to swallow it, smile, and ask for more.”

    It should be a professional embarrassment that the press corp hasn’t simply boycotted all official pressers like that as a matter of integrity. There is zero point in playing the charade anymore, other than status quo and job security. No hard questions will be asked satisfactorily. None will be answered satisfactorily. And at the stage where we’ve got a pussy-grabbing president, the whole idea of asking the same question over and over again in search of a tripped-up gotcha moment is just silly. This administration more than any other is immune to gotcha moments. Just send an intern with a cheap camera and voice recorder to get the verbatim lie. Ask no questions.

    There is just literally no decent reason to keep up the charade. Anything SHS says could be be taken off the fax machine instead and reported on in brief as, “the WH made the following incorrect or dishonest assertions today, stay tuned for analysis.” What are they afraid of losing? Trump die-hards in the audience? At least everyone else could see that media was finding its collective spine. It might even be good for ratings.

    In my fantasy, they would continue to be as hard on every politician regardless of political persuasion.