“Alternative facts” could kill, warn national security and other government veterans, and eventually could unravel the fabric of democracy and America’s standing in the world.
This weekend, it was crowd size. By next week, it could be how many troops were killed, and who was responsible for the attack. Or how successful the American response was. Or whether there is an actual threat to homeland security that requires government action. Or even a dispute with a foreign government over a sensitive detail in negotiations.
“It absolutely puts lives at risk. If the president claims that Iran is cheating on the nuclear accord, or that North Korea is about to test a nuclear device on an intercontinental missile,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, “the public needs to believe him, and if he so undermines his credibility we can’t build an international coalition … it has the gravest consequences.”
GOP strategist Steve Schmidt’s view: “purposeful deceit, willful lying by a government spokesperson, is the hallmark of a totalitarian or an authoritarian regime. It’s absolutely pernicious in a democracy.”
“The issue is small, trivial and stupid — but the act of dishonesty and arguing about it is a big deal,” Schmidt added.
“There are narcissists who think anything they do is right and anything they say — not persuaded by evidence — that is what is frightening,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who met with Trump during the transition. “When you’re saying something that is brazenly false and expecting your followers to adhere to it, that’s a dictator. That is not an American president.”
A top adviser to President Donald Trump on Sunday said White House press secretary Sean Spicer provided “alternative facts” to reporters during his first briefing.
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving, Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Host Chuck Todd fired back at Conway over her comments.
“Look, alternative facts are not facts,” said Chuck Todd. “They’re falsehoods.”
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.
In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency designed to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago. He called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.
Later, at the White House, he dispatched Sean Spicer, the new press secretary, to the briefing room in the West Wing, where he delivered an irate scolding to reporters and made a series of false statements. Mr. Spicer said news organizations had deliberately misstated the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Friday in an attempt to sow divisions at a time when Mr. Trump was trying to unify the country, warning that the new administration would hold them to account.
The statements from the new president and his spokesman were a striking display of invective and grievance at the dawn of a presidency, usually a time when the White House works to set a tone of national unity and build confidence in a new leader.
Full story: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/us/politics/trump-white-house-briefing-inauguration-crowd-size.html
From a Washington Post column by Margaret Sullivan:
Consider, for example, the saga of Serge Kovaleski, the highly regarded New York Times reporter whose disability limits the use of his arms.
Yes, this is the reporter whom Trump mocked during the campaign — waving his arms in a crude but unmistakable imitation of Kovaleski’s movements. When criticized for doing so, Trump vehemently denied that mocking Kovaleski was even possible because he didn’t know him. (Which was also a lie.) All this, because Trump wanted to promote a myth — talk about “fake news” — that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated 9/11, which he falsely claimed Kovaleski reported while working at The Washington Post. Any reasonable person looking back at the facts would find that absurd.
How to deal with these endless lies? That’s the challenge facing us as we go forward into the Trump hellscape of lies and distorted reality.
Full column at https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/a-hellscape-of-lies-and-distorted-reality-awaits-journalists-covering-president-trump/2017/01/15/3656a17e-d90f-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html
More falsehoods from Donald Trump today. It’s getting hard to keep track of all his lies, but we will try.
USA Today reports that in his first press conference since July, President-elect Donald Trump repeated false and misleading claims on jobs, health care and his tax returns.
• Trump falsely claimed that there are “96 million really wanting a job and they can’t get [one].” There are roughly 96 million people not in the labor force, but that includes retirees, students and others who don’t want jobs. Only 5.5 million of them want work.
• Trump said that “you learn very little” from a tax return. But experts told us there’s plenty of information to be gleaned from tax returns — such as potential conflicts of interest, charitable giving habits and effective tax rates.
• Trump claimed that “some states” have seen health insurance coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges increase by 100%. Only Arizona has an average increase that high, and 84% with marketplace coverage in 2016 received tax credits to purchase insurance.
• Trump continues to oversimplify the rise of the Islamic State by blaming President Obama for “leaving at the wrong time” from Iraq. President George W. Bush set the withdrawal date. More important, there were numerous factors in the rise of the terrorist group.
• Trump claimed that “nobody even talked about it” when hacked emails showed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign got debate questions in advance. Actually, there was plenty of press coverage when it was revealed that former CNN contributor Donna Brazile shared questions with Clinton’s campaign.
For more details, see http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/11/fact-check-donald-trump-press-conference/96449610/