Just days into President Donald Trump’s new administration after the customary peaceful transfer of power, the country finds itself in an unprecedented quandary: The president and at least some of his top staff are habitual liars.
It has to end immediately. If Trump is unwilling to stop himself and his staff from lying, members of Congress, especially Republicans, must pressure the president and the new administration to stop this dangerous and embarrassing practice.
These aren’t gaffes and misspeak we’re talking about here. We’re not concerned with the typical, squishy political rhetoric that snares presidents or staff who declare, “If you like your insurance, you can keep it,” or, “Mission accomplished,” or even, “I’m in charge here.”
The president’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, who also speaks at times for the United States, was caught in a web of lies on Day One about, of all things, the size of the crowd attending or watching Trump’s inauguration ceremony. He not only lied during a press conference in which he berated reporters for their accurate portrayal of the event, but he then doubled down to say that he didn’t mean what he said when he said it, lying instead about an inflated television audience.
It was bizarre, even for a presidential transformation that has surpassed all expectations of weird. The event was made even more unnerving and unfathomable the next day when top Trump aid Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer’s lies, and offered up that they were instead, “alternative facts.”
Had this been the first time Trump or his associates had been caught in peddling disinformation and bald-faced lies, it would have simply been alarming. But for months, Trump has tweeted lies, dictated lies and in front of live cameras told lies, and then he has doubled down on those lies. He told members of the CIA that it was the media that made it seem he was odds with the intelligence community, when it was his own tweets and public comments. Most recently, he was caught telling members of Congress at the White House that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because millions of illegal residents voted for her.
It is a lie. He has been warned before by election officials from both parties and across the nation that there is no evidence anywhere of such voter fraud. And yet Trump continues to lie about it.
Besides the prevarication, Spicer and Conway both said other disturbing things. In defending his previous day’s lies, Spicer told reporters: “I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts.”
Yes, you can. But then you would simply be wrong. The sun rises in the east because the Earth spins counter-clockwise around an essentially stationary sun, as viewed from Polaris. If you try to persuade Americans that the sun revolves around the Earth because Muslims are forcing it to — you would be lying. Spicer, Trump and Conway aren’t just mistaken, they are trying to deceive reporters and Americans.
Just as disturbing was Conway’s eerie warning that because the media had pushed back against the new administration’s penchant for lying, the Trump White House might have to “rethink it’s relationship” with the press.
We aren’t so naive as to think that this or any administration or government official shouldn’t be permitted to “spin” the facts and news. That’s what politics and government is all about. It’s our job to cut through the spin and give readers a sense of what’s really going on. It’s our job to weigh in on some matters, to give our own spin on news of the day. What Trump and his administration are doing, however, isn’t spin. It’s lying, and it will destroy all trust in accuracy when the stakes are much higher than crowds and other notions that reveal worrisome problems Trump has with adequacy.
The government cannot run on lies, and this newspaper and many others cannot allow it to try. Rather than immediately push back against the new administration for its clear and consistent deceptions, fellow Republicans appear disinterested. We insist that every government official recognize the unique and serious danger the country faces by allowing Trump and his administration to lie, and that they join all Americans in demanding Trump stop it now.