It didn’t take long for Donald Trump and his press team to fulfill the most dire predictions made regarding his hostility toward the media. During his campaign, alarmed press advocates called him out as “an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists.” His treatment of reporters covering him was brazenly antagonistic and insulting. And now that he has been sworn in as president, he hasn’t moderated his animosity in the least.
At a hastily assembled appearance at CIA offices, Trump spoke mainly about his “running war with the media.” He made a point of disparaging them as “the most dishonest human beings on earth.” Why he thought that was an appropriate subject for this audience is a mystery. But it was also the theme of the day for his staff.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the White House press corps together to deliver a statement. What transpired was shocking and unprecedented. For his first showing in the White House briefing room, Spicer unleashed a torrent of invective and lies which he read awkwardly from prepared notes. He lied about things for which there is video proof. He elevated a tangential issue above far more important matters in the news. His ranting reflected Trump’s thin-skinned narcissism and ego-drive obsession with approval. His angry and partisan insults were disrespectful and somewhat fascistic as he instructed reporters on what they should cover. He clearly doesn’t understand his role as a conduit for informing the public. And he concluded by stomping out without taking a single question.
Worst of all, Spicer’s complaints were a collection of verifiable lies. Among the falsehoods he sought to disseminate are these, which were all proven to be untrue by PolitiFact:
- “This is the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall.”
FALSE: They were used in 2012 for Obama’s second inauguration.
- “This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.”
FALSE: The Secret Service, who are responsible for these matters, refutes this.
- “No one had numbers, because the National Parks Service does not put any out.”
FALSE: While the Parks Service doesn’t put out numbers, other parties do.
- “We know that 420,000 people used the D.C, Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 for president Obama’s last inaugural.”
FALSE: The D.C. Metro actually provided different numbers that show Obama’s attendance were substantially higher.
- “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”
FALSE: Obama’s first inauguration drew 1.8 million people (seven times more), and the television audience was 38 million (seven million more).
Spicer spoke about his intention to “to hold the press accountable.” However, it remains unclear what he means by that. Sunday morning, Trump’s senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, told NBC’s Chuck Todd that “our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts.” As Todd pointed out, another term for “alternative facts” is falsehoods.
Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, also commented on this subject. He said that “The point is not the crowd size. The point is the attacks and the attempt to delegitimize this president.” Priebus is asserting that an honest presentation of the facts “deligitimizes” his boss. He may have a point.
All of this is reminiscent of remarks made by another Trump surrogate during a radio interview in December. Scottie Nell Hughes declared that “There’s no such thing unfortunately, anymore, as facts.” That viewpoint is an admission that they can’t possibly persuade anyone to support them if they have to rely on reality. Consequently, they resort to creating their own reality and sucking the weak into it.
Finally, on a peculiar side note, the video below is from CNN. That’s because the video on the all-new White House website is something of a digital monstrosity. It’s about an hour and forty-seven minutes long. However, the first hour and thirteen minutes is just silence with a blue card saying the statement is “Beginning Shortly.” That’s followed by about twenty minutes of an empty podium in the briefing room. Then we get to the actual six minute statement by Spicer. And finally, the video closes with another eight minutes of a blue card saying “Just Concluded.” Either they don’t have anyone who can edit a video, or they meant to bury the six minute statement in nearly two hours of nothing. Given what he had to say, that might be a pretty reasonable strategy. Unfortunately, we may be in for another four years of this obfuscation and incompetence.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.