Before I blocked the Huffington Post, I saw that they were adding a few words at the end of certain stories:
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
The Huffington organization probably feels bad about giving him so much free publicity. (Note: I had to outsmart my browser in order to copy the text above, but I did it in a good cause.)
Then this morning I followed a link to a Washington Post article with the headline “Few Stand in Trump’s Way as He Piles Up the Four-Pinocchio Whoppers”. The gist of the article is that most TV interviewers allow Trump to tell the same blatant lies over and over again, even though it’s clear to everyone – maybe even to Trump and his stream of consciousness – that he’s a huckster whose sales pitch involves telling people what they want to hear (“I tell you, this 1989 Fiat is one of the most reliable cars ever made!”).
The fact-checkers at the Post are so disgusted that they put together a list of his greatest hits. Unfortunately, they haven’t updated the list since March and it’s too long to fit on one page. But even though they demand that TV hosts have a list of Trump’s worst lies available for quick reference, it isn’t clear at all that many journalists will do their job and repeatedly challenge Trump before moving on to the next question.
I think the only solution is to cut off Trump’s microphone. Don’t let him appear on Meet the Press or Face the Nation. Don’t transmit his remarks on the nightly news. Don’t publicize his outbursts in newspapers or on the radio or on websites that purport to cover the news. Lunatics don’t have a right to be heard. Neither do proven liars. That’s not what the First Amendment guarantees.
Of course, it’s standard practice to present the views of Republicans or Democrats running for President, even candidates who tell more than their share of lies. But it’s also standard practice for major-party candidates to demonstrate at least some respect for the truth. (Is it surprising or predictable that someone who is a master of telling certain voters what they want to hear has a reputation among those voters for “telling it like it is”?)
What about the argument that the best way to counter lies and other falsehoods is to subject them to free and open discussion? There’s truth in that and voters do need to know what an important candidates believe and what they promise to do. That’s why journalists should make clear who Trump is, what he’s done in his life and what he promises to do as President.
But journalists shouldn’t repeat his lies unless it’s to immediately challenge them. And they shouldn’t give him free, unfiltered access to their microphones.
Lastly, it might be said that making it more difficult for Trump to communicate with the electorate would be a bad precedent. Doesn’t that mean future candidates will be similarly affected? Certainly, it would be a precedent, but it would be a good one. It might make it less likely that our democracy will be threatened one day by an even worse demagogue than the one we’ve got now.