For the past year and a half Donald Trump has proven to be a particular challenge for political reporters, because while all politicians say some things that are untrue, Trump is nearly always saying things that are untrue. Leading fact checking site PolitiFact says that of the statements it’s investigated, Trump has only been fully telling the truth around four percent of the time. So how do news outlets communicate to their audiences that Trump is lying most of the time? If you’re the Wall Street Journal, it turns out you don’t.
Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Gerard Baker appears on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday morning, and made the incredible argument that if news outlets accurately refer to a lie as a lie, they’re doing it wrong. His rationale is that the word “lie” implies a “deliberate intent to mislead,” whereas in some instances a person making a false statement could be honestly mistaken. But Baker’s argument can be easily dissected as specious.
For instance if Donald Trump incorrectly states the size of the national debt, he could either be lying or mistaken, and there may not be any way to know for sure which is the case. But during the course of the election, Trump regularly said and did things, only to then almost immediately turn around and claim he never said or did them after he faced backlash. In those instances it’s a given that he was lying, and not honestly mistaken. Yet the WSJ says it’s afraid to go ahead and state the obvious in these instances. Why?
“I think you run the risk that you look like you are not being objective,” the Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief said while trying to defend his position. In other words, the WSJ is afraid to call Donald Trump a liar even in the instances when it knows for certain he’s lying, due to the fear of looking biased. Of course, that approach merely encourages politicians like Trump lie more often, because they know that the major news outlets won’t call it a lie. And it plays to the laziest and most braindead of news consumers, who believe that “unbiased” means “pretending both sides are the same.”
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report