Okay, so it’s still only the first week of the new year. Nevertheless, the reigning champion of flagrant dishonesty, Donald Trump, is making a strong showing for Lie of the Year 2018. In 2017 PolitiFact “honored” him for his relentless insistence that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was a hoax. Trump stubbornly maintained that he believed Vladimir Putin’s denials more than the conclusions of every American intelligence agency that investigated the issue.
And now the White House has made a declaration so absurd that it has jumped to the head of the pack for this new year of presidential lies. During the daily briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to comment on Trump’s regard for the First Amendment. She replied that:
“The President absolutely believes in the First Amendment. But as we’ve said before, the President also believes in making sure that information is accurate before pushing it out as fact when it certainly and clearly is not.”
Whenever one asserts their belief in a core constitutional principle, it’s bad form to follow it with “but…” And in this case the qualification is outright bizarre. To suggest that Trump gives a damn about “making sure that information is accurate” flies in the face of his lie-riddle Twitter feed. He has a deep rooted aversion to the truth and he proves it every day. What’s more, the Washington post has documented almost 2,000 lies Trump has told since his inauguration.
The specific lie featured here is especially egregious because Trump’s fealty to the First Amendment has always been a bad joke. After all, Trump has been attacking the free press since he launched his presidential campaign. He routinely refers to it in general terms as “fake news.” He has vilified reporters as “liars, sleazy,” and “horrible people.” And he famously called out the media in Stalinesque terms as “the enemy of the America people.”
The question that drew Sanders’ response was specifically about Trump’s reaction to the new book by Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury. He had his lawyers threatened to sue the author and his publisher. Included in the threat was a demand that strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. The letter warned that:
“Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the Book.”
So the President who “absolutely believes in the First Amendment” is attempting to force a journalist to halt publication of a book that is critical of the President. That is such an obvious contradiction in terms that it strains credulity. But it fits neatly into a pattern of oppressive behavior that is typical of Trump. There has never been a president who was more hostile to the First Amendment and those whose profession relies on it. The assertion that he believes in the First Amendment is nothing more than an acknowledgement that it exists. But he clearly regards it as an obstacle to his tyrannical aspirations and is doing everything he can to kill it.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.