The Mendacity of Trump

I am journalist and the talk of my newsroom is the same that is going on at nearly every newsroom in the country. What do we do about the mendacity of Donald Trump?

When I say “what do we do” I obviously don’t mean what do we do to stop it. The question is how do we report it and write about it.

I’ve never known a president or a presidential candidate to tell untruths so frequently or so obviously as Trump. When other politicians would lie, and are caught in a lie, they would backpedal. They would send out a spokesperson to say, “What Senator Ingebretson really meant to say was this.”

But Trump simply refuses to acknowledge that any untruth has taken place. He denies it is untrue and repeats the lie over again. This is the case, even when proving him wrong is as easy as playing a recording of an interview he did, in which he’s saying the very thing he now claims he never said.

But there’s a problem with calling him a liar. Reporters only publish facts that can be backed up. A lie (look it up) is an untruth that is told with the intent of deceiving. We can’t look in his mind and see his intent. To call him a liar we would need a trusted source to tell us that Trump openly admitted (in private) that he made the false statement to deceive the public. Short of having that, we can only say his statement was untrue.

But trying to claim that the president is lying may be missing the point. After months of watching Trump I have become convinced that he simply has no understanding of an objective truth. There are assertions and conclusions that favor him and others that make him look bad. He accepts the former and rejects the latter. What actually happened — what is actually true — doesn’t concern him.

Trump is a narcissist. All people who run for president have outsized egos. But Donald Trump is far beyond that. His narcissism caused him to say that his old TV show, “The Apprentice,” was the biggest hit in television when it was not even close. His narcissism causes him to insist he lost the popular vote for president, by nearly three million votes, only because there was massive voter fraud. He said this when there was never any evidence of it.

Accepting the truth would destroy his cherished, fabricated reality. So here’s my question: Would you rather have a president who’s a liar, or one who is a little bit crazy? Ultimately, I leave it to others to decide for themselves which would be better, and which one we now have.


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