Sean Spicer, The Great Crowd Size Controversy, And A New Ethics Train Wreck

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Today the talking heads’ heads couldn’t stop talking about the Great Crowd Size Controversy.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called a special press conference yesteray evening to berate the news media for, he said, misrepresenting the size of Friday’s Inauguration crowd. He said, 

“[P]hotographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall…This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period —both in person and around the globe.  These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

This was gleefully pounced upon by Spicer’s targets, who then ran story after story showing that 1) the 2017 Inauguration crowds were smaller than the previous two Inaugurations, 2) Spicer was lying, and 3) hence Trump was lying, so 4) Trump had berated the news media for simply telling the truth, and 5) Spicer had forfeited all credibility on his first day on the job, the fool.

Points of ethical clarification and exposition:

1. The news media had already destroyed its own credibility regarding the Trump administration before Day One, with its unfettered hostility and bias against the incoming President. No assessment of the Great Crowd Size Controversy can commence without understanding that context. Everything the mainstream news media prints or says about Trump from here on–unless the journalistic establishment changes course—will be interpreted in that light by fair-minded, non-gullible  people. In addition, nobody sane, or not determined to diminish Trump in any way possible no matter how petty, gives an urban rodent’s derriere how the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration compared to Barack Obama’s. Quick: was Truman’s crowd bigger or smaller than the assembled at FDR’s second swearing-in? Was Polk’s throng larger or smaller than Lincoln’s? Was Wilson’s larger than Taft’s? I’m a Presidential trivia nut, and I don’t know or care. it just doesn’t matter. At all. Ever.

2. Other “scoops” from last week prove how derangedly anti-Trump the news media has been.. The New York Times intentionally misrepresented facts to make Secretary of Energy Rick Perry look ridiculous, when one hardly has to misrepresent anything to make Rick Perry look ridiculous.  TIME published a demonstrably false story about Trump removing the bust of Martin Luther King from its place in the White House. Why did it do this? Why do you think? The average reporter has adopted the Democratic narrative that Trump is racistxenophobicmisogynisthomophobic, so TIME’s reporter believed bad information without checking it, because it reflected badly on Trump, and TIME’s editors did the same. Is this crappy journalism? Yes. Fake news? Yup. Did Trump have every reason to resent this? Sure. Does it reaffirm his own biases against the news media? Bingo.

When the new administration challenged the story, as it should have, what was The Hill  headline? “Trump Attacks Reporter For Mistake About MLK Bust.” That Trump, he’s so mean! Fair headline: “TIME Falsely Accuses White House Of Rejecting MLK Bust.” Ah, but that would require the news media to report unflattering facts about the news media. Can’t have that. Remember the mission, everyone! From now on, make Trump look as bad as possible to the American people!

3. I watched the coverage on multiple channels on Friday. The reporters, to various degrees, were obsessed with crowd size, and mentioned at every opportunity that Trump’s throng was smaller than Obama’s had been. Not one of the reporters noting this that I heard—maybe someone was fair—pointed out the blazingly obvious reasons why the crowds were smaller.

First, Obama was being Inaugurated as the first and only black President in an overwhelmingly black city that voted for him more than 9 to 1 both times. All they had to do was walk to the parade. Next door is Maryland, one of the most Democratic states in the country, and across the river is Northern Virginia, the intense Democratic stronghold of a purple state. Many of Trump’s supporters had to travel long distances to D.C.

Second, whites didn’t pressure other whites to boycott the Obama Inaugurations. GOP  legislators didn’t declare that Obama was not a legitimate President. Republicans and the news media did not mount a successful (and disgraceful and un-American)  effort to reduce the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration, by representing the event as some kind of Satanic ritual.

Third, there were no well-publicized reports of violent protestors organizing to disrupt either Obama Inauguration by force, as there were this time. In fact, hoards of leftist thugs did indeed make the streets of D.C. a battleground.

Finally, Trump’s crowd was comparable to the last Inauguration of a Republican President in 2004. Did anyone point that out? Not many. The objective was to hammer home the idea that this isn’t a “real” President, and the people don’t support him. That was and is the news media’s objective, because that is the Democratic Party’s objective.

4. Should Trump, his supporters and fair-minded citizens be annoyed by this? Sure. Should they be surprised? No. Should anyone, especially the President, have made a big deal about it? Of course not. Doing so is incompetent and irresponsible. It is rising to take bait that will always be out there in various forms, for four years. The news media discredits itself with this stuff.

5. If Trump and Spicer were going to complain, tongue-lash the press and point out the inherent deception, they had an obligation to do it honestly, fairly, and moderately. Instead, Spicer just flat-out lied. I just laid out his argument above, if he wanted to stick to facts. This idiotic episode tells us that Spicer is going to be a mini-Trump, missing good arguments for bad ones and using dubious or made-up facts. No President has desperately needed a smart, witty, credible spokesperson as much as Donald Trump does, and he picked this dummy…you know, one of those “best people” he promised to appoint.

This is called an “unforced error” in tennis. Expect thousands more.

6. Chuck Todd, The Weekly Standard (the conservative publication whose founder and publisher, Bill Kristol, was one of the most vocal NeverTrumpers during the campaign,) and others used this episode to pronounce Spicer uniquely untrustworthy. They are shocked..shocked!…that a White House spokesman would say something that is manifestly untrue. From The Weekly Standard:

“Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it’s not because there’s some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you’re a proven liar in public, you can’t adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they’ll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.”

Huh? What a great example of the dishonest technique of defining a term so narrowly that only the desired target fits the description! Obfuscating, intentional misrepresentation, “shading the truth to a ridiculous degree,” aka deceit, and pretending not to know things you absolutely do know are all lying. Who says you “can” do this? You can’t do it and remain trustworthy. You can’t do it and be ethical. You can’t do it and not tar the integrity of the President you speak for. What the writer, Jonathan Last—-a journalist himself, so we know where his “ethics” come from—is saying is that you can do these dishonest things designed to deceive the public and get away with it. To Last, Todd and many more in the media, the only bad lying is stupid lying, lying that is easy to expose.

NO. For the White House spokesman to lie is equally unethical no matter what the lie is, or what it is about. Obama’s paid liars, all three of them, lied almost daily about important matters, not crowd sizes. That was worse, not better. When did reporters like Chuck Todd say, “You know, we can’t trust a thing that Josh Earnest/Jay Carney/ Robert Gibbs says, because he lies to us”? Reporters didn’t, but those three White House spokesmen lied constantly and often blatantly….just seldom as stupidly as Spicer did. The difference is that the press had good will toward Obama, always. This is one more double standard.

7. This tears it: I am now officially announcing the news media/ Trump Administration relationship an Ethics Train Wreck, hitherto known as the Trump-News Media Ethics Train Wreck, and I expect it to barrel along, leaving chaos in its wake, for four years. The news media is biased, incompetent and untrustworthy, and the Trump Administration and the President  have no idea how to deal with this without being unethical themselves. We can’t trust the Administration, and we can’t trust the news media to criticize the Administration fairly.

Great.

Yeah, but who had a bigger crowd at his Inauguration, Benjamin Harrison or Grover Cleveland?

63 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

63 responses to “Sean Spicer, The Great Crowd Size Controversy, And A New Ethics Train Wreck

  1. Carcarwhite

    Do you have any connections to Trump? Maybe you can be their ethics advisor? I’m serious.

    • I would sacrifice my career to do that, if asked. The chances of me being asked are approximately the chances of Madonna saying something intelligent in public, but worse.

      • carcarwhite

        Well, my friend knows a great friend of his who is in contact all the time… he told me he is truly wanting to HEAR ideas from great citizens who can help. So I will see if there is a way to make a connection. Maybe a long shot but who knows? We can also write him! Why not huh? I would for sure!!

  2. Other Bill

    As always, the lonely voice of reason. Holding forth in the darkness.

  3. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the GOP try to undermine (and “illegitimize”) Obama’s presidency by saying he was not a U.S. citizen and his birth certificate was not valid?

    • You’re not forgiven. 1) What the GOP did or does does not justify unethical conduct by others.2) There was no Party-wide effort to delegitimize Obama. A few jackasses, like Trump, used the birther argument. It was nothing close to what the Democrats are orchestrating now. 3) The GOP Candidate who ran against Obama specifically rejected that smear, in public, more than once. None of the GOP leadership ever said otherwise. There were no conservative “not my president” protests.

      This is a tit for tat rationalization. Do better.

      • JutGory

        I don’t think he was rationalizing, Jack. I think he was questioning your Second point. Your first and third points were responsive, on-point, and accurate. I think your first one was off.
        -Jut

        • That’s a stretch, and your memory is off. Here was Politico’s overview of Birtherism. It wasn’t a GOP effort, it had no effect on the First or Second Inauguration, and it had absolutely no impact on the crowds, which is what the post is about.

          My second point: Whites didn’t pressure other whites to boycott the Obama Inaugurations. GOP legislators didn’t declare that Obama was not a legitimate President. Republicans and the news media did not mount a successful (and disgraceful and un-American) effort to reduce the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration, by representing the event as some kind of Satanic ritual.

          Nothing off about any of that. By mid-first term, a few GOP legislator were flirting with the birther junk. A few isn’t comparable a third of the party’s House contingent, and it was unrelated to the Inauguration.

          This comment was one more “Don’t criticize Republicans because Republicans did the same thing” false rationalization, 100%.

          • JutGory

            Right, you said Republicans did not declare him illegitimate; he said, forgive me if I am wrong, but I thought they did; you responded with points to support your position.

            The way the press covered The Republicans, it is plausible someone would have this sense (“one term president, etc.”). I don’t think it is a stretch at all.

            -Jut

  4. Mark

    They do need you, Jack! I’d testify at your hearing!

    • At first, I thought this was a good idea. But, upon further reflection, it would compromise or destroy the primary mission to make the American public more aware of ethics issues.

      P.S. Did everyone see the reports that someone pulled a fire alarm at the Steelers’ hotel? Is it a coincidence that the city with a coach and a quarterback with a history of unethical behavior, has (presumably) a fan of the team who acts unethically?

  5. Sue

    This Sunday morning I watched various “talking head” shows about politics. The only time there was anything I’d call a civil discussion (rather than people talking loudly past each other) was when two talking heads who leaned in the same political direction spoke to each other. Even then, what was extraordinary disappointing, that they did not discuss anything of import — just the crowd count and that “nutcracker” coat worn by Conway.

    The last eight years were a complicit media; willing to ignore the negative and outright bad things that occurred in DC. The next four years will be a pissed-off media willing to pounce on negative items, even if they have to exaggerate to make a point (and sell ads or clicks). All the media outlets have a specific agenda/direction they plan to publish, the truth (and fact checking) be damned.

    Unfortunately, I think that only the President’s twitter account will provide a clear view on his thoughts – for what that’s worth. I just wish he put a little more thought (and grammar) into them. Typing in ALL CAPS? With lots of exclamation points !!!!! They can be exhausting to read.

  6. Warren

    I’m a Presidential trivia nut, and I don’t know or care. it just doesn’t matter. At all. Ever.

    It matters to Trump, and that should be the takeaway here. We have somehow managed to elect to the presidency a nitpicking narcissist whose interest in governance seems to have less to do with the enactment of policy than with an expanded capacity to promote his own brand and pick fights with detractors over issues of little importance. The news media can hardly be called self-discrediting when their accurate reportage of the admittedly trivial issue of inaugural crowd size exposes a genuine problem with the new administration’s juvenile obsession with exactly that sort of trivia, along with an alarming tendency, as evidenced in the first briefing by the new press secretary to lie about issues that are easily checked. Media bias is a huge problem, but media power pales in comparison to that arrogated to the commander in chief. The fact that the commander in chief has shown himself to be thin-skinned, impetuous, and unfocused, does not excuse poor and biased reporting. But to say that the media is incompetent and untrustworthy is like saying that the Canadians are obsessed with hockey; it imposes a monolithic attitude on a group that is scattered, miscellaneous, and inclusive of everything from Brietbart to CNN to freelancers with no permanent affiliation.

    • Yes, we know that Trump can’t take a whiff of anything unflattering or that doesn’t feed his narcissism. We knew it already. That’s no take-away.

      Ugh. Go read some posts, Warren. There’s a journalism tag. Omitting facts to deceive or mislead is unethical, and over-reporting to give significance to that which isn’t is incompetent and unethical. The hockey analogy is bad, because the issue here is trust. We are at the point that news media reporting is so biased and so frequently incompetent, as well as so often in violation of basic journalism ethics, that it can’t be trusted. If journalists try to remain unbiased and follow procedures 95% of the time, that’s not great, but is still trustworthy. When it drops to 60% or worse, and it is worse, then we simply can’t trust the news media.

      • charlesgreen

        For the record, I find it absurd to claim that the mainstream media is at 60% compliance with solid procedures – it’s far closer to the 95% figure you cite. Of course it should be held to high standards, no argument, but the thrust of many of your posts – this one included – is an equal pox on both your houses, press and Trump.

        I find the press far, far more trustworthy than President Trump.

      • Warren

        Right, but your conclusion, based on your evaluation of media untrustworthiness seems to be that we can’t trust the media at all — any of it, ever. The reason I made the — admittedly clumsy — hockey analogy is to suggest that the media is hardly so monolithic to be eligible for such a blanket dismissal. Moreover, I would suggest that being overly broad about this kind of condemnation leads to a level of skepticism among the public that inclines people to ONLY trust the media which confirms their own preferences; in other words, it proliferates the kind of bias you’d like to eradicate. The public needs to exercise a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to both the media and state propaganda. What concerns me is general statements like “the media can’t be trusted.” With that kind of attitude, why read the Washington Post at all? Why not stick to Brietbart or Mother Jones or whatever reinforces your belief system? I noticed you canceled your WaPo subscription back in August, but you continue to cite them as a source. (Incidentally, this is one reason the print media struggles to provide robust and in-depth coverage; they can no longer field the number of reporters they used to due to an ever shrinking number of paying readers.) To me this suggests that to some extent you continue to rely on “mainstream” sources like the Washington Post for information and not just to enumerate their fallacies. Your blog is superb at noting the often dreadful missteps by the media. What I want to suggest is that you are too emphatic in the conclusion you draw from these examples. If we dismiss out of hand organizations like the Washington Post or the New York Times as being unworthy of our trust, we really will be left with fake news.

        • charlesgreen

          I totally agree with this comment. The press is not so monoolitically powerful that it can’t be seriously hurt by critics who don’t distinguish between good and bad journalism. Too many people already seriously believe there is no difference between Breitbart, Reddit and NYTimes, and it doesn’t service the citizenry well to casually equate them.

          There are way too many people out there already too inclined to paranoia to not worry about feeding them more…

        • Chris

          I concur with this wholeheartedly.

  7. crella

    It sure seems to matter to liberals, though, doesn’t it? Every news source, including CNN, had comparison photos on their front pages. Unbeleivable sneering on Facebook and Twitter about crowd size ” saying it all” and “proving” that he is not the people’s President. To whom does it matter more?

    • Infantile minds are always pre-occupied with discussions of size.

    • charlesgreen

      CNN and MSNBC were pretty clear: they agreed with Kelly Ann that the issue of crowd size is itself trivial. The real story – and the one Kelly Ann refused to address – is WHY the President chose to make such an issue of, by creating ad hoc the most adversarial press conference in 20 years, AS SPICER’s FIRST SHOW!
      What horrible judgment! That’s the issue, not the crowds.

    • charlesgreen

      I’ll bet you every newspaper article covering every inauguration in the past century made some mention of the size of the crowds. To read anything in to that is to misunderstand how you report cyclical national events, whether it’s the World Series, the Super Bowl, or the inauguration.

      The only one obsessed with size is Dear Leader – @ThomMcDaniel has it right.

  8. Christopher Henley

    The distinction you do not acknowledge, in this screed against the media (somehow blaming it for habitual bullshit spewed by a congenital liar), is that once the MLK bust story was proven false, that was reported. Team Tang are still doing the Groucho routone. You are free to believe what you will. I trust the media more than I do the Resident [sic] and his spokesman. I have seen more effort at accuracy, and more willingness to correct a mistake, from the fourth estate than from the second place pop vote winner. But, after reading your analysis of the most devisive campaign in recent memory, which you blamed not on the incendiary principle, but rather on the sitting President for not somehow healing, to your liking, the wounds inflicted by the bomb thrower, I’m not surprised to read that the problem is the media and that poor poor pitiful D just doesn’t know the smart way to counter it; they are “missing good arguments for bad ones.” I appreciated your props to HRC for the incredible grace she showed this week. Character matters. How sad that most of us recognized that, voted accordingly, but pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, the real problem is that pesky dog.

    • Chris, this is denial. Read or re-read the Glenn Greenwald post—he got that right. Correcting an incompetent and damaging story doesn’t fix it. I don’t read TIME, which is now crap—I read the reports of Time’s report. And the story was circulated all over the place, including on Facebook. Did you see Facebook check THAT fake news? It’s still out there. We will be hearing people say that Trump dissed MLK for years.

      “I have seen more effort at accuracy, and more willingness to correct a mistake, from the fourth estate than from the second place pop vote winner.”

      And there’s your problem, and an core ethics comprehension weakness.

      Trump’s sloppy use of non-facts doesn’t have any affect on the news media’s obligation to be fair and unbiased. Your argument is the worst rationalization on my list, #22, “It Isn’t The Worst Thing.” Yes, I will stipulate that Trump is even less reliable as a news source than the US news media, and so what? So is my dog. The profession has a duty, it ignores it, it distorts facts and pushes an agenda, picks winners and losers and slants the truth, and your answer is—that’s OK, because Trump isn’t trustworthy? This is what I’ve heard from otherwise smart people trying to justify unethical acts and conduct aimed at the Trump since the election, and before….he justifies bad conduct. I started pleading a year ago for everyone to stop making me defend Donald Trump, and I keep seeing this same crazy, unethical argument, exempligied by the New York Times announcing in an op ed that it would no longer report objectively, because Trump had to be stopped.

      It’s essentially, boiled down to its essence, the “punch the Nazi” fallacy, because he doesn’t deserve ethical treatment.

      • charlesgreen

        Jack, half of Trump voters still believe that President Obama was born in Kenya. And this is after Trump has stopped claiming it. I suppose they think he’s just being PC now.

        As of late December, nearly half of Trump supporters believed the PizzaGate crap.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/rampage/wp/2016/12/28/americans-especially-but-not-exclusively-trump-voters-believe-crazy-wrong-things/

        That kind of nonsense, I suggest, is far more damaging then any error I can think of from the Mainstream media since they bought Cheney’s Yellowcake crap.

        This is less about “not the worst thing” rationalization, and more about false equivalency.

        The danger to an informed citizenry is not coming from Chuck Todd, it’s coming from under the rocks that Trump is legitimizing. No comparison.

        • You’ve been enlightened on this before. The MSM has the legitimacy of being the MSM, when it lies, hides the truth, mischaracterizes, and slants reporting, it does so knowing it is more likely to be believed…

          If you don’t consider that dangerous, then I’m afraid you are going to take all the wrong lessons away from your book you mentioned reading…the one where you essentially came just short of saying Trump is Hitler.

          (which we all know would be a dishonest comparison).

      • Christopher Henley

        Honestly, Jack, if you are going to scold someone for a logical fallacy, you shouldn’t do it by attributing to him an argument he didn’t make and doesn’t believe, and then congratulating yourself for blowing the straw man down. I didn’t say, nor do I believe, that Trump’s mendacity excuses sloppy or inaccurate reporting. I understand that the damage down by that isn’t entirely rectified by a correction and an apology. I am making the distinction, however, between a falsehood that was retracted and apologized for, and one that was not retracted, but instead was pathetically rationalized and clung to. My conclusion was that, overall, the former is a more reliable source of information than is the latter. You then agree with that conclusion. Thanks. And the MLK bust example was chosen by you, in-artfully. A better example would have been of the MSM presenting a picture and then attempting to convince readers/viewers that what they are seeing did not happen. The insignificance of the size of the crowds (which you spent great effort establishing) doesn’t diminish the importance of this story: White House chooses to expend political capital, and introduce itself to the press room and the nation, by attempting to refute a demonstrable fact. Sorry, that’s news. And the inanity was commented upon across the political spectrum, not just by liberals, Democrats, progressives, one of your favorite tirades, as if Ari Fliesher, Evan McMullan, Bill Kristol, George Will, etc, etc, don’t exist. And the popular vote repudiation is important because it’s a fact. Almost three million more people voted for the person who isn’t President. The tennis analogy is clever. It means, yes, that the victor can say, “I won Wimbledon.” However, it doesn’t mean that she can go around saying, “I won more points” if she didn’t. In the context of an Electoral majority/popular minority, one needs to be careful about throwing around claims such as, “The American People have spoken.” They did; they wanted someone else. The system provided a result at odds with the popular will. And that matters. A better analogy is boxing: a knockout is a more definitive outcome than a technical knock-out or a win on points. It’s a meaningful distinction, and it should not be forgotten that, the ONLY time in history that a sitting Prez lost re-election, but came back to office, was a case when more people had wanted him at the previous election. And you know it matters to you-know-who, to the extent that he has made wildly unsubstantiated claims of wide-spread fraud. And, really, there are a lot of extremely well-intentioned, careful, thoughtful, admirable reporters providing us our information, and I expect that you acknowledge that periodically. So to paint with as broad and as dismissive a brush as you do against the media seems the sort of sloppy generalization of which you accuse them. And charlesgreen is awesome.

        • I didn’t say, nor do I believe, that Trump’s mendacity excuses sloppy or inaccurate reporting.

          I didn’t say you did. #22 is a rationalization (look it up: it’s on the list to your left), mitigating bad conduct because something else is worse, and that’s EXACTLY what you did.

          I understand that the damage done by that isn’t entirely rectified by a correction and an apology. I am making the distinction, however, between a falsehood that was retracted and apologized for, and one that was not retracted, but instead was pathetically rationalized and clung to.

          Here’s the distinction: one was advanced by a malicious profession that is supposed to be trustworthy and objective and isn’t, and the other was an embarrassing denial of reality that nobody sentient believed. Which does more harm? I’m not defending Trump; why are you defending the news media?

          My conclusion was that, overall, the former is a more reliable source of information than is the latter.

          So what? That’s the standard for the news media? Then they are untrustworthy.

          ” The insignificance of the size of the crowds (which you spent great effort establishing) doesn’t diminish the importance of this story: White House chooses to expend political capital, and introduce itself to the press room and the nation, by attempting to refute a demonstrable fact.

          It is trolling, and it is an attempt to make an invalid and unethical point, as I explained. The crowd discrepancy is meaningless in context. It is NOT news. It’s just part of the delegitimization exercise. Trump knows it, which is why he over-reacts.

          “And the inanity was commented upon across the political spectrum, not just by liberals, Democrats, progressives, one of your favorite tirades, as if Ari Fliesher, Evan McMullan, Bill Kristol, George Will, etc, etc, don’t exist.”

          I wrote that the tirade was stupid and dishonest. Why are you citing all of those who agreed with me? That doesn’t change the fact that the provocation was another example of media bias. The crowds were not news or significant, as I explained.

          And the popular vote repudiation is important because it’s a fact.

          THAT’s a powerful argument. The poular vote, is NOT “repudiation.” It’s essentially one, outlier, culturally estranged state’s eccentric voting—calling that national repudiation is stunningly dishonest.

          The tennis analogy is clever. It means, yes, that the victor can say, “I won Wimbledon.” However, it doesn’t mean that she can go around saying, “I won more points” if she didn’t.

          Nobody says that, becase it would make them look just as foolish as a loser who said, “But I won more points.” Which is exactly as pathetic as using the popular vote that doesn’t decide the Presidency as meaning what it doesn’t mean and as never intended to be. It’s patheitc, Chris. It’s always been pathetic…in 2000, in 1884. The system elects the President based on the will of the states as defined by the state voters, and the winner of that process is valid, normal, and legitimate. Denying that is destructive, and bad citizenship. Simple as that.

          Meanwhile, sure there are fair stories and well-researched and objective reports: I just highlighted one. And every one of them lawys the groundwork for fake news and baised hatchet jobs to be accorded credibility.

          • Chris

            Here’s the distinction: one was advanced by a malicious profession that is supposed to be trustworthy and objective and isn’t, and the other was an embarrassing denial of reality that nobody sentient believed. Which does more harm?

            This particular mistake (the MLK bust) was not malicious, it was a mistake. I don’t see how you can generalize the entire profession as malicious when even this example was not malicious.

            Your statement that “nobody sentient” believed Trump’s crowd size lie would be nice if it were true, but as it is, it’s just naive. There are lots of people who will believe anything this president says; without them, he couldn’t have won.

            The crowd size matters because it matters to Trump. Did anyone not know Trump would be lying about the size of the crowd the next day? Good for the media for anticipating this and getting ahead of the story; anticipating Trump’s lies and making sure less people will believe them is their ethical duty, and will continue to be an important one during his presidency.

            (The question of who won the popular vote is also important to the degree that Trump is still lying about it.)

            • Ugh. Chicken and egg. The popular vote should be an irrelevant stat the second the election is official. Trump’s claims about the pop. vote are stupid, but they are opinion. Most of his worst whoppers are. He’s not going to change. But the news media HAS to change, or they have no use at all.

              I agree, of course, that the bust story was a mistake. It was a mistake because it could be verified, and make the reporter and TIME look bad. But such mistakes are fertilized by confirmation bias, and the bias is anti-Trump. Ask yourself this: if the same reporter had the same level of information claiming that Obama had removed that bust, would he have published it with the same lack of care? I think its fair to say the answer is no. The honest mistakes and the deliberate smears and the fake news and the negative spin all arise from the same unprofessional bias that has been growing and increasingly damaging to trust and public knowledge since 2008 and before. The news media has made it impossible to just brush off “mistakes.”

              The news media is no longer able to be an arbiter of Trump’s truth or anyone else’s, and this is their own doing. And it is appropriate and responsible to point that out. Trump has made his own credibility dubious at best, but informing the public is not his main job. It is the news media’s only job.

              I read, who knows if its true, that the networks were debating banning Conway from news shows because she lies. Hilarious! Not Lanny Davis, not all of Clinton’s surrogates who claimed she never sent classified information, not Donna Brazile, not Trumps’ campaign surrogates who were dishonest and easily made to look like morons, not Robbie Mook, not the incredibly dishonest Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who regularly argued up was down and black was white…Conway! Why? because even while making her “alternative facts” dodge, she was quick enough to flummox Chuck Todd and call him correctly on the news media’s bias! That’s a smoking gun to me. She’s too effective at lying (like Davis, whose even better) and she’s a Trump mouthpiece.

              NONE of those paid liars should be on TV. But the networks are only troubled by the pugnacious conservative. Here was Althouse’s scoring of her bout with Todd as a 9 round fight. Despite the disastrous “alternative facts” defense, she scored it a draw. (I’d score it a self-knockout, myself)

    • “Character matters. How sad that most of us recognized that, voted accordingly”

      Oh, so you voted for neither mainstream candidate either.

      Excellent!

    • ” have seen more effort at accuracy, and more willingness to correct a mistake, from the fourth estate than from the second place pop vote winner.”

      You may wanna double check your labels. You insinuate Trump was a 2nd Place popular vote winner…since NO ONE won the popular vote, then there wasn’t a 2nd Place…

      You do know how our system works right?

      If not, I’d reconcile that before trying to post anything else.

      • I do not understand why people, and especially smart people like Chris H., think referring to the popular vote is meaningful. The system is old, established and clear. The popular vote doesn’t elect the President, and that isn’t in dispute. It’s really like Hope Solo saying “the best team didn’t win.” The team that scores the most points is the best team, and the President who gets the most electoral votes is the winner, and the only one.

        • I like a tennis analogy – because the loser of a match could still have more total points throughout the match than the winner of the match.

          But the rules were agreed to beforehand and had those rules been different, the players would also have been playing differently…

        • Chris

          I don’t understand why people, especially smart people like you, think the popular vote is meaningless. We know that the popular vote doesn’t choose the presidency. But there’s a reason why the popular vote almost always lines up with the EC vote, and why it’s a big deal when it doesn’t. It matters that Trump is entering without the support of a majority of Americans, and that he has no “mandate,” which politicians often claim when they are voted in with a clear majority. It matters especially to Trump, who makes so many statements about “landslides” and having the support of “the American people.” It doesn’t make him any less legitimate a president–and it’s idiotic to say he’s not legitimate–but it does weaken him.

          • Since you are objective and intellectually honest, I assume you would post this screed to remind the good readers here that Hillary failed to gain support from a majority of Americans also, had she won the Electoral College.

            It wouldn’t have made her any less legitimate of a president, but it would weaken her.

            Since 1964, only 5 of those receiving the most popular votes received a clear MAJORITY of the voters. 4 of those receiving the most popular votes barely eked out that majority by less than a percent. In five elections NEITHER main candidate received a Majority of the popular vote (and that includes both the elections, 2000 & 2016, that are claimed to be ‘questionable’)…

            So yeah, constant references to the popular vote are pretty useless, unless you can admit that you planned to be objective about it.

            • Bah, I keep forgetting THAT important factor. Lincoln had less that 40% of the popular vote, and was as assertive as any President we have ever had. Wilson was elected with about 42%, and Republicans didn’t bellyache about his lack of a mandate for every long. Truman never reached 50%; neither did Clinton, in either election. Nixon had only 43% of the popular vote but had an electoral landslide, despite margin of just .7 per cent over Humphrey.

            • I can’t find my post from a few weeks back which goes into detail on just why the electoral college is MOST needed during elections in which NEITHER candidate gets an actual majority or where the margins are too narrow to claim landslide or mandate…

            • Chris

              Since you are objective and intellectually honest, I assume you would post this screed to remind the good readers here that Hillary failed to gain support from a majority of Americans also, had she won the Electoral College.

              Honestly, I probably wouldn’t bring it up.

              But I wouldn’t say that those who did didn’t have a point.

              It wouldn’t have made her any less legitimate of a president, but it would weaken her.

              Yes, it would.

          • It wasn’t an electoral landslide, but it was close to one. Every elected President has a mandate. Losers always claim the opposite using various rationalizations, but its just sour grapes, and a tactic. When there is such a large discrepancy between the Electoral vote and the popular vote, it shows that the popular vote, not the electoral vote, is misleading. One increasingly isolated, radical and culturally estranged state accounted for the entire margin. The rest of the nation does not think like California, and that’s why the EC was put in place to begin with.

            The individual selected is unfortunate, but the 2016 was a bracing re-affirmation that democracy works, and even the most entrenched, smug and powerful set of leaders can be defeated by pure popular will. It’s wonderful to behold.

            • Warren

              This is a strange statement. The electoral college is certainly what matters in terms of electing and therefore legitimizing a president. But it hardly follows that the electoral college is *necessarily* democratic or even desirable. That argument can certainly be made, but you don’t seem to be making it here. If we accept that democracy means citizens electing their own representatives, then voters in California certainly ought to have an equal say in who their representatives are as, say, voters from Wyoming. Again, I am not suggesting that the electoral college is somehow invalid. But a defense of it that rests on the assumption that the politics of a particular state are somehow disagreeable to you strikes me as bizarre.

  9. charlesgreen

    I think this is a false equivalence. Let’s review:

    Every four years we have an inauguration. It is guaranteed front page Story Number One. And how are we to think about the news of each inauguration? Basically, by comparing it with all others. How else do you talk about it?

    Was the tone apocalyptic, or uplifting? Utopian, or dystopian? Lincolnesque, or Jacksonian? What were the themes, compared to Kennedy? Did it rain? What was the mood, compared to Ike? And what was said – the transcript itself – compared to various other speeches.

    I only checked back one inauguration, but in the first paragraph the size of the crowd is mentioned. I can’t imagine a reputable news organization NOT mentioning the size of crowd compared to other inaugurations; just as I can’t imagine them not mentioning the weather, the themes, and whether the President walked on Pennsylvania Avenue.

    So it is utterly unremarkable that the media would mention audience size, it’s a natural part of the narrative. To claim any significance about the mention of audience size is to misunderstand how you write a story about an every-four-year event of 200-plus years’ provenance.

    What IS remarkable is that the President would choose to (apparently) order his new press secretary to put forth – at his FIRST press conference – a hastily scheduled, no-questions-allowed attack session aimed at – are we really surprised – The Size of the Crowd. And of course blaming the press. (And by the way, getting the facts wrong).

    The really outrageous thing here is NOT the facts being wrong – it is the outrageous confirmation that we have a President who exhibits so nakedly the traits of:

    – thin skin
    – preoccupation with size
    – paranoia, and
    – narcissistic self-obsession.

    The news lead here is not Spicer’s bad facts, but the fact that Trump apparently pushed him (shades of Nixon and Ziegler) out to be his personal attack dog for yet another display of faulty character. THAT was totally newsworthy – anyone who still believed, along with Obama, that the office would somehow make the man, just got cold water in the face. An official confirmation of massive character defects in the leader of the free world.

    But that wasn’t enough: the next day, as usual, Trump DOUBLED DOWN, and NOW we’re treated to a media story. “Fake media” is so old hat; now it’s “alternative facts.” You did notice, didn’t you, that “alternative facts” was the number one trending phrase on twitter, and with very good reason. It’s Orwellian. Orwell couldn’t have written it better.

    The issue is not mistakes: it is the brazen insistence that “alternative facts” are entitled to some legitimacy. It is positively Orwellian, and brazenly so.

    I’m just embarking on a thick book about the rise to power of Hitler, and so far it’s scary. Everyone in 1936 figures he’s no threat, because all the traditional conservatives, and the traditions of government, will rein in his worst instincts. “Don’t worry,” the thinking was, “that’s just the way he talks. He doesn’t really mean anything by it, and anyway he’s surrounded by cooler heads, mature people of strong political experience and good character. The traditions of government will hold. Don’t worry about Adolf.”

    I can’t wait to see how it ends – no spoiler alerts please…there’s this interesting character named Goering who sounds familiar…

  10. luckyesteeyoreman

    My spin on all the crowds’ sizes claims, counterclaims, wisecracks, and fake spin (I HAD to say THAT!), is to compare and contrast not the sizes of the crowds, but the types of people attracted to one (Trump) versus others (non-Trump, Never Trump, anti-Trump, anyone-other-than-Trump).

    The Trump people should put out this statement;
    ya gotta admit, it’s right in their league:
    “The Jaws of Truth are President Trump’s.
    Herding sheep is always easier than herding sharks.”

    Go ahead and get that “bigger boat,” Democrats. Bwa-HA!

  11. “…misrepresented facts to make Secretary of Energy Rick Perry look ridiculous, when one hardly has to misrepresent anything to make Rick Perry look ridiculous.

    That’s my former governor, bless his heart. The man is the poster child for all the Democrat stereotypes about Republicans in bed with Big Business at the expense of the little guy. We could not fire him until he wanted to leave, either.

    The only silver lining is the same as my friends from Arkansas mentioned upon the election of Bill Clinton: at least we got him out of our state.

    Rick’s elevation to Secretary of Energy also proves that either God likes a good joke, or Trump does.

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