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Republicans: Facts don’t matter, and journalists shouldn’t bother checking them

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Matt Lauer, the host of the morning entertainment program, “Today Show,” is certainly no journalist, as his abysmal and justifiably criticized performance last week on NBC’s commander-in-chief forum made evident. He is a celebrity talk show host, and a minor celebrity himself, who gives his interviewees softball questions so they can brag about themselves. Lauer let each of Trump’s lies and blustery mischaracterizations completely slide, even as he garroted Hlllary Clinton over the non-event of the year: her “damned emails” (to quote the late candidate, Sen. Sanders).

Lauer deserves all the embarrassment his New York and Washington friends care to dump on him; one can only hope he’s truly chastised and will leave genuine reporting to more qualified professionals. No less than the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal lacerated him, in a column by former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. Fleischer was quite correct when he said Lauer should have “challenged” Trump on some of his more dubious claims. But Fleischer, being a Republican hack himself, could not let it go at that. Instead, he had to advance the preposterous notion that “it…should not be up to the moderators [of televised debates] to set the record straight.”

How’s that again?

According to the Fleischer playbook, hosts such as Lauer have no business calling out lies by candidates, no matter how obvious and outrageous those lies are. Instead, they should treat every statement, by all parties to the debates, as factually equivalent. The example Fleischer uses is this: When Trump says that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning—a totally false statement, easily disproved“it [should have been] up to [Hillary]” to point out the statement’s lack of veracity, not the moderator.

Really? What if Trump had said, “The first President of the United States was Benjamin Franklin”? Is it the role of an intelligent moderator to immediately challenge such an assertion? One would think so. “I’m sorry, Mr. Trump, but I cannot allow that claim to stand.”

However, in order to challenge a Trump lie, Lauer would have needed two things: a knowledge of the truth, and the ability to withstand the obloquy that would have been heaped on him by Fox “News” and the rest of the Trump cheering squad by challenging their hero. Even if Lauer had the knowledge to challenge Trump’s lies (and we don’t know that he did), he clearly doesn’t have the cojones to directly confront the GOP candidate. But why not? Several answers suggest themselves: Either Lauer is a Trump surrogate, or he is trying to protect his $25 million annual salary from Comcast, which owns NBC.

I doubt if it’s (1), although who knows? Maybe he really does love Trump. As for that $25 million? Well, Comcast is one of the most hated corporations in America, a company that routinely rips off Americans. Yes, they tolerate MSNBC, for the time being (although Keith Olbermann and Melissa Harris-Perry were a bit too much for them). But you know how these things work: a subtle wink and nod at the executive level, just enough to let Matt know that Brian Roberts, who runs Comcast, might not like to be accused on O’Reilly of harassing the next President of the United States of America. ”Hmmm,” thinks Lauer, “maybe I better pull my punches with Trump. But not with Hillary! Brian will love that!”

We’ll never really know why Lauer did such a miserable job; all we can hope is that he will never again be entrusted with such responsibility. What we can do is to keep up the pressure on NBC (and CNN as well) to let them know we are thoroughly disgusted with their coverage of this campaign. They have repeatedly rolled over for Trump, spread their legs and eagerly allowed him to have his way with them. We expect that sort of whoredom from Fox “News.” That it has now spread throughout the media is the shame of American journalism.

So should debate moderators be fact-checkers? Of course they should! It just makes sense; moderators supposedly know what’s happening in the news and in politics. They live and breathe this stuff; they know when the truth is being slaughtered. They’re not just potted plants onstage there with the candidates. Why have a moderator at all, if he or she is simply to be a timekeeper? A smart phone could do the job. So, when Ari Fleischer says “The last thing moderators should do” is to call out blatant untruths, you have to wonder what his real motive is. Is it to elevate the level of Presidential debates, as he claims? Or is it to further degrade them to the advantage of the biggest liar on the stage—who, it just so happens this year, is Donald J. Trump.

  1. Worth repeating:

    “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

    — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

  2. The truth needs all the help it can get!

  3. Indeed, especially with the blatant lies issuing constantly from trump, fox “news” and the other rightwing wack jobs.

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