There is nothing like waking up on Easter Sunday to breaking news implying that we have been catapulted into World War III. This unusual message came from a traditionally credible source that we are expected to rely on for truth and accuracy: the President of the United States. Since our nation’s founding, Americans have trusted the President to communicate honestly and with great care before disseminating information to the American people, especially on sensitive issues. But this President wakes up, grabs his phone, and tweets whatever careless word salad his thumbs and amygdala happen to come up with.
When I awoke this morning and looked at my phone, I learned of the horrific terror attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka through an impulsively irresponsible tweet from Trump. My Twitter notification showed a tweet, sent at 6:49 a.m., which began: “Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels that have killed at least 138 million people…” What?! 138 million people gone overnight? What new weapon is this? Is the end of the world near?
If this were any other President tweeting, I might have pondered these disturbing questions longer. But I reminded myself that this casually reckless tweet came from the small hands of none other than Donald “I Have a Very Good Brain” Trump. Although former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted in June 2017 that Trump’s tweets are “considered official statements,” time has proven that for so many reasons Trump’s tweets cannot be trusted.
The next Twitter notification was a far less alarming expression of Easter greetings, which Trump sent 15 minutes later, as he was presumably headed to the Situation Room to deal with Armageddon. Sure enough, the next notification made it clear that, as terrible as the news about the Sri Lanka attacks were, the death toll (in an island country that has only 21 million people) is actually one million times lower than what Trump hastily announced to his nearly 60 million Twitter followers. Perhaps worse than the mistake itself is the fact that it took Trump 32 minutes to realize he screwed up (no doubt thanks to a phone call from an aide). Trump deleted the original tweet and replaced it with a new one that starts with the words “138 people,” a tacit acknowledgement of his slip.
As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs and new details emerge about the horrible terrorist attacks, we know better than to trust our President to deliver careful, accurate information. Trump’s behavior this morning is a stark reminder of why we must confide only in America’s meticulous, brave, and honest news agencies for accurate reporting about a serious situation over the ramblings of a dotard.