In a Sunday Times op-ed called Lord of the Lies, Timothy Egan argues that Donald Trump, and apparently only Donald Trump, should be fact-checked live in any Presidential debates. Egan is adopting the current fad among journalists, which is the argument that Trump is so bad, the media should apply a double standard, making sure his misrepresentations are immediately debunked, while presumably allowing Hillary to continue to issue whoppers every time she talks about Benghazi, her State e-mails, the Clinton Foundation, her record as a champion for victims of sexual assault, etc.
I already pointed out how unethical it was for CNN to employ an on-screen fact-check of a Trump speech ( “Trump: I never said Japan should have nukes (he did).” ) especially since they will never do the same to Hillary (“Hillary:I never sent e-mails marked classified (She did…)”) Egan thought CNN’s intrusion was just peachy, though, because the news media now believes their task isn’t to be fair to both candidates and treat them the same, but to employ any means necessary to defeat that one journalists have determined shouldn’t win.
A larger problem with Egan’s thesis—even more than his apparent belief that the notoriously biased PolitiFact is “non-partisan”)—is that he doesn’t know what a lie is. He adopts the flat-out wrong definition of lie used by most fact-checkers in fact: if they disagree with a statement or can show it is untrue, it’s a lie. That’s not what makes a statement a lie. For example, PolitiFact is demonstrably biased and Democratic-leaning, far more so than the Washington Post’s Factchecker or Fact Check.org. But I wouldn’t assume that Egan is lying when he says otherwise. Progressive journalists just assume PolitiFact is fair and non-partisan because they think they are fair and non-partisan. They are deluded, not lying. That’s an important distinction.
Hillary Clinton lies. As with her e-mail saga, she goes into a room with aides and works out deceptive statements that she hopes will convince casual listeners, partisans and those she has corrupted that what she says really excuses her conduct. She then adjusts her cover-stories to respond to new revelations that make the previous statements untenable. First she says her private server was approved. Then, when the IG states that his investigation indicates it wasn’t approved, her new story is that she assumed it had been approved. This is a liar at work.
Trump, in contrast, just says stuff. Egan cites many examples that he calls lies when what Trump says was obviously untrue. He cites the fact that Washington Post’s Fact Checker has given Trump 30 of its Four Pinocchio ratings as showing that Trump was” lying 70 percent of the time.” Wrong (though Egan isn’t lying). Trump was stating things that were false 70% of the times examined by the Post, but that doesn’t mean he knew they were false. For example, Trump has said many times that he opposed the Iraq war “from the beginning.” When a tape was produced of his telling Howard Stern that it was “probably” right to invade Iraq, Trump shrugged it off with “Whatever.” He didn’t think what he said on a shock-jock radio show counts. That’s stupid, but it isn’t dishonest.
Trump may have lied in some of these cases, but it is impossible to tell when. He just says what pops into his head. He doesn’t prepare; he doesn’t study. He just wings it. Egan cannot fathom this concept, which is basic to ethical analysis. Egan believes every misstatement or wrongly stated fact is a “lie.” Like here:
“It was that class-action lawsuit that got Trump into his present caldron of lies — calling the Indiana-born judge in the case a “Mexican.” By that standard, Trump is a German, with a grandfather from Kallstadt. Some of Trump’s lies are the everyday speech of a charlatan — trade talk. At a bizarre news conference in March, he called Trump Winery “the largest winery on the East Coast.” Not even close, according to PolitiFact. Last month he said he had more employees in New Jersey “than almost anybody.” Not a chance.”
Does anyone really think Trump was trying to deceive anyone when he called a Mexican-American judge a “Mexican”? It was shorthand from a sloppy thinking, sloppy speaker. We know this. Was Trump consciously trying to deceive anyone when he hyped up his winery, or said he had more employees in New Jersey than “almost” anybody? If you are certain this is lying, you don’t know what a lie is….like Egan.
A lie is a statement designed to deceive.That’s what Hillary Clinton does—design statements to deceive us. Trump, in contrast, speaks in generalities and off-hand guesses, and selectively describes reality the way he wants to see it at any given time. That’s not a good thing in a leader; in fact, it’s terrifying. It is not, however, the same as lying.
Thomas Egan just argued that Donald Trump should be treated differently than Hillary Clinton by the news media because he lies even more than she does…and the Times published this screed, despite the fact that Egan, in a column about lying, demonstrated that he doesn’t know what lying is.