Donald Trump

Trump and the Lying Media

Candidate's bluster lacks foundation.


Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press/Newscom

A couple of months ago, I had a nasty chore that I have to perform every so often. I had misquoted what a politician said in 1992, and a co-worker noticed the discrepancy. I wrote a correction, which my employer, the Chicago Tribune, promptly published.

Does making a mistake like that cause me pain? Well, yes, sort of like the pain I'd get from being bitten by a wolverine and then dousing the wound with Tabasco. But sometimes mistakes happen, and when they do, the Tribune makes a point of letting our readers know.

It's not hard to get a correction when a reputable newspaper gets something wrong. Wednesday's edition of The New York Times included 13. The Wall Street Journal had four. The Tribune had none, but it prominently featured a phone number and an email address, inviting readers to report errors.

Donald Trump tells voters the news media do not provide honest information. "They will attack you. They will slander you. They will seek to destroy your career and your family," he insists. "They will lie, lie, lie, and then again they will do worse than that."

Funny thing. As an opinion columnist, I've written dozens of columns disputing, contradicting, rebutting and even ridiculing him. I've met him and his campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, and emailed with her.

Yet neither of them nor anyone else associated with his campaign has ever asked for a correction of anything I've written. If I'm one of the journalists lying about him, why don't they point out my false claims and force the newspapers that publish my columns to set the record straight?

Maybe they've been too busy meeting with his attorneys about the lawsuits he's planning. After The New York Times ran a story about two women who said he had sexually assaulted them, Trump threatened to sue for libel. His wife, Melania, threatened to sue People magazine after one of the alleged victims, a People writer, recalled a chat with her on the street.

Neither lawsuit will ever come to pass. If he were to sue the Times, Trump would have to undergo interrogation about these and other accusations. His ex-wives and girlfriends could be deposed. So could his children, his friends, his enemies and his employees, past and present.

From those depositions, the Times' lawyers might learn a lot of things that Trump would rather they didn't. In spite of all his bluster, Reuters reports, he hasn't sued a newspaper for libel since 1984—when he took the Chicago Tribune and its architecture critic to court for disparaging a skyscraper he had proposed. Trump lost and apparently learned a lesson.

It's harder for a public figure to win a libel suit than it is for a private individual, because the legal requirements are different. But even a famous person has only to prove that the newspaper published a false story that harmed his or her reputation and knew or should have known the story was false. (Melania Trump would have no chance suing People, because the offending passage, true or not, wasn't damaging.) Such lawsuits rarely get file –and even more rarely succeed—because news organizations hardly ever do what the defamation laws punish.

Trump's fulminations against the coverage of his campaign are equally hollow. He doesn't ask for corrections because, as a rule, there is nothing to correct.

Newspapers routinely acknowledge when they get facts wrong, because their credibility is all they have. Trump doesn't admit or retract falsehoods, because his falsehoods are deliberate.

PolitiFact has documented that 53 percent of his statements are entirely false and only 4 percent are entirely true. (For Hillary Clinton, the figures are 12 percent entirely false and 24 percent entirely true.)

He thinks the news media are biased against him. What they are really biased against is his flagrant, incessant lying about matters large and small.

Clinton has told her share of lies—which the news media have exposed. The difference is that her misstatements are limited in number and scope, while he emits a never-ending torrent of outlandish fictions, which he goes on repeating long after each one has been exposed. His approach is a repudiation of the very idea that factual reality matters, which happens to be a sacred tenet of honest journalism.

Trump spouts brazen misinformation every time he opens his mouth, and he resents being called on it. But when he makes war on the truth, he shouldn't be surprised to find the news media mounting a defense.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Don't worry Stevie, Hillary will stop that bad man from coming after the press.

    All you have to do to be safe is never, ever say anything bad about her.

    1. Your comment drips with condescension despite the fact that your own implicit viewpoint - that any criticism of Trump automatically enlists the critic as an agent provocateur for Team Blue - lacks any form of nuance or credibility.

      Some of us became libertarians precisely because your brand of binary political tribalism is suffocating, vapid and banal.

  2. Goes on and on about media credibility.

    Quotes PolitiFact.

    1. Hey, he admitted that he's voting for Hildog, which is more than many of the other d-bags around here will do.

    2. Yup, Politifact sucks.

      But that doesnt make Trump credible. His nonstop stream of bullshit is punctuated only by self-aggrandizement, ad-hominem, incoherent/insane/authoritarian policy pronouncements & public displays of affection for dictators & mass murderers.

      But lets focus on Politifact.

  3. Instead of distancing yourself from the coming storm you double down on Hillary's "simple misstatements" as an excuse for her rank criminality and saber rattling with Russia.

    You either believe she's going to win and protect you acolytes.
    Or you're really stupid and don't see how much hatred you're fomenting with the lies.

  4. **The difference is that her misstatements are limited in number and scope, while he emits a never-ending torrent of outlandish fictions,**

    "I handed over all relevant emails"

    "I never lied to the public"

    "I never had classified email on my private email server"

    Lies repeated til this very day by HRC. And this is just a fraction, off the top of my head.

    Which of Trump's lies are more egregious and broader in scope than any one of those?

    1. Yes, Hillary is a liar. So is trump. They are both liars! Notice how I didnt have to suppory *either* of them? Thats because my opinions about politics arent based on the multiple choice options provided to me by the state. Try it sometime!

      1. You're making a lot of assumptions here, Jay, but OK...

  5. As much as I detest Trump, and I really can't stand him, it is glaringly obvious to me that the press has one standard of coverage for him and a vastly different standard of coverage for Hillary. I think even partisans - at least the ones I know - will readily admit that. They simply make excuses for it because he is "dangerous" said in a way that she is not, according to them.

    Anyone arguing that the press is equally fair and equally critical of both Trump and Hillary is not arguing in good faith.

    1. Remember. The one flirting with aggression against Russia is not the dangerous one.

      1. Yes, truly a President Trump will bring peace in our lifetime. Gandhia, MLK, Trump. I cant decide which of his ideas are more Christ-like - is it his idea that the familys of terrorists should be murdered? Or is it his pronouncement that torture will become a legitimate use of force? As popular as these policies are here, surely when ISIS & AQAP here of them they will lay down their arms & call it a day, right?

  6. Steve - while the general gist of what you are saying here is true, your line regarding PolitiFact is not a factual statement. PolitiFact has not "documented that 53% of his statements are entirely false" because PolitiFact doesn't fact-check all his statements. More accurate would be to say "53% of his statements that PolitiFact has checked are entirely false."

  7. "53% of his statements that PolitiFact has checked are entirely false."

    Would that not be better stated as judged rather than are?

    1. Facts are facts, buddy. It's right there in the name! Politifact.

    2. Also a good point. "PolitiFact has judged to be entirely false 53% of his statements that they have checked."

  8. "Clinton has told her share of lies?which the news media have exposed. The difference is that her misstatements are limited in number and scope"

    Umm, can you at least have the courtesy of giving me a reach-around?

  9. Chapman, you are such an irrelevant loser that it isn't even worth the time to try to get a correction from you.

  10. Chapman, you and the rest of your buddies are no longer trusted. Go fuck your self.

  11. Clinton has told her share of lies?which the news media have exposed. The difference is that her misstatements are limited in number and scope


    That's fucking hilarious! Good one, Chapman! ... Oh, wait... he was actually being serious?!

    1. Chapman makes Brian Williams look like Honest Abe. - Reasonamus (stolen from Dave Chappelle when he was funny)

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