Since winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump has continued his habit of making unverifiable or downright false statements. Because of these shortcomings, American citizens have no choice but to look to the media for clarification of these often outlandish claims.
As with every politician, the media has a duty to inform the public of intentional untruths. This is doubly true for the president-elect, who has built his young political career on consistently false information.
In response to the recent controversy surrounding Trump’s statements, the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal has stated that they will not refer to Trump’s statements as “lies.” Instead, the paper will do their own research and release their findings on the matter, alongside the actual information from Mr. Trump. This, he said, is the easiest way to let the public make their own judgments on the situation while maintaining the objectivity of the paper.
He justified this decision by stating, “I’d be careful about using the word, ‘lie.’” ”’Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.” As an example of this strategy, he referenced a lie that was told by Donald Trump after 9/11. According to Trump, he personally witnessed thousands of Muslims gathered in New Jersey on rooftops celebrating the terrorist attacks. The editor-in-chief added that the Wall Street Journal thoroughly investigated these claims and found them to be a lie.
Opposite the Wall Street Journals approach, other news sources have decided to call a lie what it is; a lie. In a recent interview, the executive editor of the New York Times explained why this is an important practice to hold onto. “I think the moment for me was the birther story, where he has repeated for years his belief that President Obama was not born in the United States. That’s not an obfuscation, that’s not an exaggeration. I think that was just demonstrably a lie.” In other words, calling a lie what it is isn’t telling people how to think, but rather telling them the truth.
Despite the public’s increasingly growing intention to fact-check Trump’s claims, the media often skips finding out the truth and instead jumps to spreading his statements as is. By the time the truth comes to light in many situations, the false news has already spread beyond repair, leaving the impressions of the lies sitting in the minds of millions of people.
Surveys show that, when faced with the falsities that Trump produces versus legitimate facts from a trustworthy news source, the majority of people will believe Donald Trump over the media. According to a survey of Trump supporters, forty percent of Trump voters think that the businessman is more credible than the New York Times. Forty-one percent of his voters also think that he is more credible than CNN.
In addition, it has been found that Trump supporters are also likely to believe in any number of his additional lies, such as that unemployment decreased during the Obama administration. The facts state, however, that unemployment actually decreased during his presidency. Thirty-nine percent of Trump voters believe that the stock market went down during Obama’s presidency, when in fact, it rose. Thirteen percent of his supporters also believe in a conspiracy theory that suggests Hillary Clinton has ties to a child sex trafficking ring run out of Washington, DC. These claims were also investigated, and there is zero credible evidence to support the theory.