Whoo, boy. The truth just keeps getting whacked by this gangster White House. The how-low-can-he-go bar keeps falling. Is there no bottom? Not for some time, friends, so hold on.
We learned this week that President Donald Trump does not believe his own words on videotape — words that he had earlier acknowledged, in explaining how a star can get away with the type of predatory behavior that has caused everyone but him to get fired.
We learned that he endorsed a website that says the pope uses magic to mastermind world events. This, after he gave a thumbs up to a media outlet that claims NASA runs a child labor colony on Mars.
We learned that he still believes 3 million fraudulent voters caused him to lose the popular vote, that no president has accomplished so much in 10 months as he, that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States.
We may soon learn that Trump won a gold medal in synchronized swimming. This is likely to come from a public servant being paid tax dollars to defend a dog’s breakfast of fantasy. That would be Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, who crossed a big Rubicon this week.
After Trump tweeted out discredited hate videos from a fringe group, he was praised by the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, but condemned throughout Britain. Even the reliably compliant Piers Morgan wrote, “Please STOP this madness and undo your tweets.”
When pressed on this, Sanders said, “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.” Well, I’ll be cow-kicked. There it is, from the podium that represents the most powerful person on earth: a declarative affirmation that truth does not matter.
By that logic, it does not matter if Trump implies that someone he dislikes may have committed murder, because the threat of murder in general is real. Wait — he did that as well, in defaming Joe Scarborough on Wednesday.
It used to be that a press secretary would say, “I have no information on that.” Now it’s standard operating procedure to shrug a whatever and wait for Sean Hannity to clean it up on state-run television. That’s what happens when your boss shows signs of dementia.
Do you see what they’re doing? If facts don’t matter, then a professional press that tries to deal scrupulously in facts is irrelevant. Everyone is a liar. Welcome to the club.
Trump is a hooligan to the Constitution. But he has a gaggle of people being paid very well to help him subvert truth, justice and the American way.
One of them just set a spectacular Dumpster fire. That would be James O’Keefe. He runs something with the perfectly Orwellian name of Project Veritas. O’Keefe is a criminal, having pleaded guilty to his part in an attempt to enter a U.S. senator’s office under false pretenses.
You’d think this would ruin him. Nope. Rich people give him money so that he can use fraud to prove that real reporters are just as awful as him.
A woman last seen scurrying into the offices of Project Veritas tried to set up The Washington Post with a phony story. The intent was to protect Roy Moore, accused of being a child molester and running for Senate in Alabama.
O’Keefe and his people use false identities and lies to bring down people who work their butts off to get at the truth. His operation is tax-exempt, under a clause designed to help religious and charitable groups.
“At Veritas, we believe that we’re all journalists now,” he said this week. Sure. Your average journalist, laboring in the trenches of tedium at school board meetings, makes less than $50,000 a year. O’Keefe takes a salary from his nonprofit of more than five times that amount, according to a 2016 tax filing.
As with Trump’s tweets, the design is to bring everyone into the sewer. If O’Keefe were a lawyer, he’d be disbarred. Instead, he’s protected by the First Amendment that he and Trump are trying to subvert.
Trump attacked CNN International this week, joining autocrats, drug cartels and Islamic militants who also hate independent fact-finders. Already this year, 34 journalists have been killed. Last year, 259 of them were imprisoned.
This president calls journalists “the lowest form of humanity.” You know who was a journalist? Winston Churchill. Mark Twain. Frederick Douglass. Teddy Roosevelt. Rachel Carson.
But here’s the thing. O’Keefe’s fake reporters proved that real reporters have standards. They make mistakes. They issue corrections. They have biases. They’re human. But they take the business of news-gathering seriously. And the Dutch Embassy corrected the mighty president on his hate videos.
So in the end, reality will out. You can’t stop a hurricane by calling it a snowflake. You can’t say you won the Masters when nobody has given you a green winner’s jacket on the 18th hole of Augusta National. Well, you can try, and try, and eventually you’ll be led away under escort of people in white coats.
Timothy Egan worked for 18 years as a writer for The New York Times, first as the Pacific Northwest correspondent, then as a national enterprise reporter.