If by chance you were hopeful that Donald Trump and his team would miraculously morph into honest, decent people after he was inaugurated, this weekend provided a rude awakening. I must admit it was so underhanded and patently unethical that it shocked even me – a full-time Trump critic.
Just 24 hours into the presidency, the lies started. I am choosing to use the word “lies” here because we must call a lie a lie. They didn’t misspeak. When we call a downright lie something other than a lie – like “an inaccurate statement,” or an “error,” or even a “falsehood,” we fail in our fundamental duty as citizens to hold our leaders accountable. This weekend, Trump, his Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, each looked us all right in the face and told stone cold lies.
It started with Trump. Speaking before the CIA, in front of a wall honoring fallen officers, he lied when he said that it was the media that completely concocted a beef between himself and the agency. But it was Trump himself who compared the CIA to Nazis and put quotation marks around the word “intelligence” every time he’d tweet about the intelligence community.
The fact that he was willing, in his first full day in office, to stand up on the microphone and lie like that was breathtaking. Either he actually believes his own lies, which would be troubling, or he simply lacks such a moral core that standing up before the nation and lying to everybody just doesn’t bother him. Any pretense that the gravity of the moment or the importance of the position would humble him in any way has now been thrown out the window. Donald is Donald and Donald is a liar.
Just a few hours later, Spicer held an angry impromptu press conference. His first press conference was not scheduled to happen until yesterday, but this, it appeared, was an emergency. Except it wasn’t. Spicer, who eventually stormed off without taking a single question, stated over and over and over again that Trump’s inauguration was the largest inauguration in American history.
Except it wasn’t. The non-partisan Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checker, Politifact, evaluated every word that came out of Spicer’s mouth and deemed his statement that it was “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period” to be a “pants on fire” lie – the worst rating a statement can receive from the organization. In fact, not a single reputable fact-checking body supports what Spicer said. Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration was the largest in American history, but it appears that Obama’s 2013 inauguration and even Clinton’s in 1993 were each larger than Trump’s.
Either it was the largest crowd ever assembled for an inauguration or it wasn’t. That’s not an opinion – it’s math. It was not the largest crowd ever for an inauguration – period. That he felt it necessary to call an emergency press conference to press such a lie says everything we need to know about him and the Trump White House. They are petty and will lie right in your face if they feel slighted in any way.
With 24 hours to reflect on the foolish lies of Trump and Spicer, Conway made her rounds on the Sunday news circuit. What she said to Chuck Todd on Meet The Press will never be forgotten. When Todd pushed her on the fact that Spicer repeatedly lied in his press conference, Conway first threatened to end the White House’s relationship with either NBC or Meet the Press over Todd’s persistence, then she dropped a bomb of epic proportions.
Conway said that Spicer relied on “alternative facts” for his conclusion that Trump’s inauguration was the largest ever. Todd, as you could imagine, was gobsmacked at the reply. What the hell are “alternative facts?” Whether Conway made that up right then or there is unclear, but what is clear is that the White House is not guided by honesty and integrity.
I’ll close with this. By introducing the concept of “alternative facts” into atmosphere, what we have here is the troubling, frightening normalization of dishonesty. Trump continued lying late last night – repeating a lie he told a few months ago that he actually won the popular vote because millions of Hillary’s votes were fraudulent. Do not allow yourself to get used to this. We must call him out and we must never accept that this behavior is OK. `