The day after Donald Trump gained more than 270 Electoral College votes, thereby winning the U.S. Presidency, I heard a commentator on either CNN or MSNBC refer to him as “our first post-truth President”.
Um … what? I wouldn’t have been able to get away with telling my mother 40 years ago, that I hadn’t lied, exactly, I was just being post-truth. She would rightfully have strongly (trust me when I say strongly) let me know that post-truth is semantic bullshit.
So why did Donald Trump get away with being one of the most prolific liars to ever run for President (at least, according to non-partisan arbiters like Politifact) and WIN the office with hardly a word from the media about his penchant for lying (often just for the sake of lying)? Isn’t the media’s job to inform the electorate? Somehow, though, while a great deal of time was spent by said media hammering Hillary Clinton’s emails and likeability factor, said media did not deem it to be worthwhile to spend even a small fraction of the time devoted to Hillary’s issues examining and informing the electorate about a characteristic as basic as honesty.
And related to this lack of honesty are other matters that were uncovered by stellar investigative journalism work done by Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek, David Fahrentold of The Washington Post, reporters at The New York Times and other publications. These publications told the tale of Trump’s taxes (he’s paid none for decades), his charitable foundation (which is a scam, essentially), and his global business interests (and the conflicts arising from them).
Other than perfunctory mentions of these matters, broadcast media generally did not cover these stories. Even worse, if broadcast “journalists” – and I do use that term skeptically now – mentioned these stories, often it was to pose questions about them to Trump surrogates like KellyAnne Conway (ugh) or Rudy Giuliani (who the hell knew he was going to turn into a little Goebbels, complete with spittle?) – who all evaded direct answers, and few, if any, follow-up questions were asked. Hours weren’t spent debating the fraud of Trump University amongst panelists that included David Axelrod, Van Jones, Hugh Hewitt, Steve Schmidt, and others. Trump told a very detailed lie about receiving a letter from the NFL objecting to the dates selected for the Presidential Debates – and the media collectively shrugged, normalizing the lie.
What broadcast media in particular did during this election cycle was nothing short of malpractice. Their constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom is there because a well-informed electorate is vital to the health and continuing viability of a functioning democracy. Had any citizen relied solely on broadcast news – and there are far too many who do – without working hard to educate him or herself through multiple credible sources, a reasonable take would be that while Donald Trump had some undesirable personality quirks, Hillary Clinton had downright grave and dangerous issues.
The creeping corruption potential that’s become evident in the twelve days – only twelve days! – since Donald Trump gained the most Electoral College votes is something for another day and another post. This morning, it was a simultaneously frustrating and heartening experience to see Chuck Todd on Meet the Press actually almost press Trump’s Chief of Staff-Designate, Reince Priebus, about some of these matters.
Unfortunately, Chuck, you’re way too late. I believe you’ll have lots and lots of opportunities to ask Trump Administration officials lots and lots of questions about ethical breaches and corruption … thanks to your complicity in delivering one of the more ethically challenged and corrupt Presidents to this country.