Driving to work this past Wednesday, I was shocked at a conversation on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Reporter Mary Louise Kelly was discussing Trump’s blatant lies during the first week of his presidency–millions of people voted illegally, my inauguration was the most watched in history, we have a replacement for Obamacare, my hands are huge, etc.
Well, not exactly. Because the conversation was actually about why she and NPR have chosen not to call Trump’s lies lies — as opposed to the New York Times, who finally went there.
With Trump’s lies ringing in the ears of millions, Kelly didn’t know what to do — just like so many in the media who cower from telling the truth for fear of being branded “liberal” (the horror!). Indeed, Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior president for news, admitted as much: “the minute you start branding things with a word like ‘lie,’ you push people away from you.” In other words, the media is afraid that if they speak the truth, they’ll be seen as taking sides.
Stop and really think about that for a minute. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Back to Kelly. Desperate, she looked up the definition of “lie” in the Oxford English Dictionary. (Remember, this isn’t a junior high student writing a book report; this is a national reporter for NPR who worked for CNN, the BBC and been published in the Times, WaPo, and WSJ.)
The dictionary was apparently Kelly’s savior. You see, its definition of “lie” was “a false statement made with intent to deceive.” Eureka! As Kelly explained, “intent” is the key word and “without the ability to peer into Donald Trump’s head, I can’t tell you what his intent was. I can tell you what he said and how that squares, or doesn’t, with facts.” So, according to Kelly, Trump’s lies aren’t really lies at all because she doesn’t know if Trump intended them to be lies.
You know what that boils down to? According to Kelly, it’s not a lie if Trump believes it.
Folks, we’ve gone full Seinfeld. What was played for laughs on a 90s sitcom is now essentially the media’s cowardly approach to avoid calling Trump’s lies what they are.
Somewhere, Edward R. Murrow weeps.