The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler has a new entry in his signature Fact Checker column out, and for the first time EVER, the Post took the bold step of declaring that Donald Trump told a LIE. Can you believe it??
The subject of the fact check, which was published Wednesday night, was Trump’s repeated assertions that he did not know about the hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, claims everyone knew were bullshit but were firmly put to rest through Michael Cohen’s guilty plea on Tuesday. This is how you know it’s serious this time: Kessler didn’t even give him a dang Pinocchio rating. All of the Pinocchios were too busy weeping for the death of Truth.
Not surprisingly, the newspaper whose motto is “Democracy dies in darkness” was extremely proud of itself for entering this bold new frontier:
Earlier this month, the Post calculated Trump had made 4,229 “false or misleading claims” so far in his presidency. So why haven’t they called him out for lying until now? Kessler writes (emphasis added):
Trump’s allies have defended the president by suggesting that facts are debatable. Early into his presidency, one aide famously said he was operating with “alternative facts.” On Aug. 19, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani declared: “Truth isn’t truth.”
How to characterize Trump’s statements has become its own pitched political battle, with many of the president’s critics demanding that they be called “lies.” The Fact Checker has been hesitant to go that far, as it is difficult to document whether the president knows he is not telling the truth.
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Can you imagine any other politician being held to this comically low standard? The same paper once devoted several hundred words to dismantling Bernie Sanders’ claim that his average campaign donation was $27, because it was actually $27.88. Kessler himself did a column earlier this month carrying water for the libertarian Mercatus Center over its inadvertently good Medicare for All study. And then we come to Trump.
That Kessler and the Post are just reaching this bleak milestone more than three years after Trump first announced he was running for office—when he rode down that dumb fucking escalator and proceeded to call Mexican immigrants to the United States “rapists”—is yet another example of just how ill-equipped the media was to deal with the Trump presidency.
Access journalists at least have the admittedly weak excuse that if they call Trump a liar, they won’t be able to do their fatally flawed jobs. It’s questionable how much a role like “fact checker” can even matter in an era like this, particularly when the person doing the fact checking is just another journalist who sees themselves as a defender of Objective Journalism. But at the very least, fact checkers should have inoculated themselves against the pressures not to call bullshit what it is. The fact that they’re only now willing to do that is an abject failure.