It’s nothing new that New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman would shy away from saying that President Donald Trump is a liar or has told a lie. Back in June, the New York Times said that the reason she does is because, well, Trump makes stuff up in his head. And really, who can say whether or not that’s a lie?
But on Friday, Haberman and the Times took this weird refusal to new heights in her latest White House Memo, which is called “A President Who Believes in His Own Facts,” and begins with this shit sandwich:
He accepts less-than-credible denials from autocratic heads of state about nefarious acts. He disputes the existence of man-made climate change and insists that photographic evidence of the crowd at his inauguration is fake, part of a media plot to harm him.
Over the course of 21 months, President Trump has loudly and repeatedly refused to accept a number of seemingly agreed-upon facts, while insisting on the veracity of a variety of demonstrably false claims that happen to suit his political needs. In the process, he has untethered the White House from the burden of objective proof, creating a rich trove for professional fact-checkers, and raising questions about the basis for many of his decisions.
It gets worse from there (emphasis mine):
Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept some established facts is hardly new. From his belief in the guilt of five young men of color in connection with a savage attack on a white woman in Central Park in the 1980s, to his conviction that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya, he has carried on what amount to personal crusades in the face of established facts for much of his career.
Another person might say that these are lies, and racist ones at that.
Mr. Trump’s approach has profound consequences for the credibility of the presidency and the boundaries of acceptable political discourse. It also has serious ramifications for his advisers, as well as people who hear the president’s words outside the United States. And, according to Mr. Hayden, it particularly affects the intelligence officials whose job it is to present Mr. Trump with the information he needs to make critical national security decisions.
Just a guess here about something else that has “profound consequences for the credibility of the presidency and the boundaries of acceptable political discourse”: Refusing to say that the president has lied just because he’s the president.
Finally, we have this:
But in briefings and meetings, Mr. Trump has frequently chosen to adhere to his own beliefs on issues such as the Iran nuclear deal. He has declared that pact to be “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” based on his belief that Iran was not in compliance with it, despite evidence to the contrary.
Trump is the president. He has seen the evidence that Iran is still in compliance with the nuclear deal. He still says the thing that is not true. It’s not a coincidence that the lie reinforces mainstream Republican orthodoxy that Iran is a serious threat to the United States, while the thing that is true—that they are in compliance—shows that they’re serious about peace.
Haberman, of course, isn’t alone. The Washington Post’s victory lap when fact-checker and my mortal enemy Glenn Kessler finally decided to admit—500 days into Trump’s presidency—that Trump told one lie, sticks out as a bewildering example of how much deference the media gives the president simply because he’s the president.
Part of the issue stems from the fact that Haberman’s job relies on access and being well-sourced within the White House, including with Trump. But, I don’t know, it seems to me like being honest about what’s actually happening is worth the risk of losing incredible scoops like “Trump’s watching TV and he’s really angry now, boy oh boy.”
When the president lies, journalists shouldn’t be afraid to say that. And the fact that they are indicates that Trump isn’t just redefining what truth is, but that a lot of reporters are content with helping him to do so.