Postscript to RNC: need to tell the truth
Donald Trump’s not wrong about everything. He’s telling the truth when he says he’s created a lot of new jobs. In fact, he can take credit for vastly expanding one particular industry: fact-checkers. Newsrooms have hired hundreds of them.
Fact-checkers have been in great demand since the beginning of the Trump presidency, but never more so than during the Republican convention, starting on Day One — when Trump delivered a rambling, incoherent, 50-minute rant to delegates about the dangers of voting by mail, Democrats’ attempts to steal the election, and Joe Biden’s radical socialism.
What could networks do? Reluctant to be mere purveyors of propaganda, they did their job. They told the truth. CNN cut away from Trump’s speech, with anchor John King telling viewers: “A lot of what you just heard from the President of the United States is wrong, misleading and outright lies.” On MSNBC, Chuck Todd noted that Trump’s speech was “filled with so many made-up problems about mail-in voting that if we were to air just the truthful parts, we probably could only air maybe a sentence, if that much.”
Of course, that didn’t stop Trump or his loyal acolytes. They kept repeating the same lies over and over again — so often that we may start believing them. Don’t! As your own fact-checker, I offer you the truth to counter the most oft-repeated lies you heard during the Republican National Convention.
Tax cuts. Eric Trump: “My father, on the other hand, delivered the largest tax cuts in American history.” FALSE! At least six other tax cuts were bigger than Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut of December 2017, including Ronald Reagan’s (1981) and Barack Obama’s (2012).
Police reform. Steve Scalise: “Joe Biden has embraced the left’s insane mission to defund the police.” FALSE! Biden has repeatedly said he does not support defunding of police. Not only that, but he’s proposed $300 million in increased funding for community-based policing.
Fracking. Nikki Haley: “They want to ban fracking.” FALSE! Biden’s climate change plan would ban new fracking on public lands only. It allows continued fracking on existing public and private land leases and new fracking on private lands.
Pre-existing conditions. Kayleigh McEnany: “This president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.” FALSE! The Trump administration is actually in court trying to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, including protection for people with pre-existing conditions.
Drug prices. On Day One, Trump again bragged that he’d reduce the cost of prescription drugs as much as “60, 70 percent.” FALSE! Yes, on July 24 Trump signed four executive orders on drug prices, but there’s been no follow-up. The text of one, the “favored nation” order, hasn’t even been released yet. Kaiser Health Plan says it’s unlikely the orders will result in any drug-pricing discounts for most Americans.
Economy. You hear this all the time. Larry Kudlow and many other RNC speakers claim Trump built “the most successful economy in the history of our country.” FALSE! Nearly 6.6 million jobs were created in Trump’s first three years; nearly 7 million were created in Obama’s last three years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Wages grew 3.3 percent in Obama’s last three years, 3.2 percent in Trump’s first three. The S&P 500 has climbed 51 percent under Trump; in Obama’s second term, 52 percent.
Vote-by-mail. According to Trump, vote-by-mail leads to massive voter fraud. FALSE! In use since the Civil War, vote-by-mail is highly successful and increases voter turnout, with almost ZERO evidence of voter fraud. Remember: Trump formed a commission to uncover voter fraud, which disbanded when they found nothing.
Coronavirus. The biggest lie of all. Mike Pence asserted that the pandemic is now behind us, thanks to Trump’s bold leadership. FALSE! And FALSE! Some 181,000 Americans, more than in any other country, have died of COVID-19. And, far from leaping into the fight against the coronavirus, Trump at first dismissed it as a hoax, claimed it would soon disappear, refused to wear a mask or self-distance, promoted bogus drug cures, condemned governors for taking preventive measures, insisted on reopening businesses and schools before it was safe to do so, then ignored advice of health professionals by holding maskless, no-social-distancing rallies during the convention.
The Niagara of lies from the Trump campaign presents a challenge to the media: How to cover political attacks that are so manifestly untrue? The answer is to do just what they did this week: First, provide the airtime as a public service, then expose the lies as a professional obligation. If they fail to tell the truth, they’re not doing their job.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, “Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him).” His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)