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Trump calls media 'stain on America,' but he keeps lying

By Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

The president of the United States is a liar.

That is, to any person with even the loosest grip on reality, a fact.

So it is with staggering hypocrisy that President Donald Trump tweeted his most recent media critique Sunday: "Very little discussion of all the purposely false and defamatory stories put out this week by the Fake News Media. They are out of control -- correct reporting means nothing to them. Major lies written, then forced to be withdrawn after they are exposed ... a stain on America!"

There have been two significant mistakes made recently, one by an ABC News reporter and one by reporters at CNN.

Brian Ross, ABC's chief investigative correspondent, falsely reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn planned to testify that Trump had instructed him to make contact with officials from Russia during the presidential campaign. Once the network realized Ross's report was wrong, a correction was issued and Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay.

More recently, CNN reported that Donald Trump Jr. received an email offering access to hacked Democratic National Committee documents before they were released by WikiLeaks. The story was confirmed by two separate sources.

After learning that the email actually came after WikiLeaks had published the document, CNN corrected the report but said its reporters were not being suspended because they followed the network's editorial process.

These were big mistakes, no question. But in journalism, as in any business, mistakes happen. There's no evidence these were lies or anything remotely malicious -- just bad reporting and, in the CNN case, bad information from sources.

Most importantly, the reports were corrected and the journalists who made the mistakes were held accountable. (Even though the CNN reporters weren't suspended, you can bet they were held accountable according to the network's editorial policies.)

Journalists who lie or fabricate do not remain journalists for long. You can choose not to believe that if you wish, but that would be an exercise in willful self-deception.

Or, in Trump's case, an exercise in malicious deception. Another recent tweet: "Fake News CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake yesterday. They were caught red handed, just like lonely Brian Ross at ABC News (who should be immediately fired for his 'mistake'). Watch to see if @CNN fires those responsible, or was it just gross incompetence?"

You'll notice in his weekend media critiques, Trump failed to mention a mistake Fox News made Friday. The network falsely reported that one of the women who has accused Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was in her teens had "forged" his signature in her yearbook.

Fox News tweeted a link to its story under the headline: "Roy Moore accuser admits she forged part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama Senate candidate." In reality, the woman said she had added notes -- including the date and Moore's then-title as district attorney, "D.A." -- beneath what she says is Moore's yearbook inscription and signature.

Fox News corrected its story and the headline, though Moore had already shared the original Fox News tweet and was using it to denounce his accuser.

Did Trump call Fox News "fake news"? Nope. Did Trump demand that whoever was responsible for inaccuracies in the story or headline be fired? Nope.

As has always been the case, Trump's cries of "Fake News" relate only to news he wants to be fake. No story that benefits him politically, praises him or reinforces his world-consuming ego -- no matter how false -- has ever been fake news.

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To that, I'm quite sure, Trump's devotees and the president himself would say: "Shut up, Rex, you're FAKE NEWS!"

And on and on we go, right down the rabbit hole.

It's sinister, but it would work a whole lot better if the man shrieking "Fake News!" wasn't such a demonstrable fake himself. Consider a mere sampling:

"President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!" -- LIE. Zero evidence that this happened.

"I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." -- LIE. Zero evidence.

Trump said the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville "had a permit" while the counter-protesters "didn't have a permit." -- LIE. Absolutely false. Both groups had official permits.

"I'm cutting the price of airplanes with Lockheed." -- LIE. The $600 million in cost cuts for military planes was worked out before Trump took office.

I could go on. And on. And on and on and on.

It's a steady flow of uncorrected lies and distortions spewed forth without consequence, accompanied by relentless attempts to discredit the media. Trump isn't the first person to rise to power and use such tactics.

And when leaders follow that path, things don't generally end well.

Trump is calling our free press -- the same free press that men and women have fought and died for -- "a stain on America."

He's lying.

The only stain in question is the one this president will leave on our democratic institutions. And the size of that stain will be determined in good part by those who wake up and see the truth.

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(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)

 

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