Dan Rather is not pleased with the Wall Street Journal’s Chief Editor, Gerard Baker, for comments he made regarding whether or not journalists should call Donald Trump a liar. Rather took to Facebook to discuss it, using a column by Greg Sargent to back up his claim.
There is, of course, the obvious hilarity of Dan Rather being the guy to say this. The man who ran with the laughably fake Killian documents, even after it came out that they were laughably fake. Rather to this day maintains that the story the documents told – that George W. Bush’s military service consisted of disobeyed orders and that commanding officers were under pressure from higher up to keep his record officially clean – is true… even if the documents themselves aren’t (although Rather also maintains that no one has ever conclusively proven they were forgeries).
So, when Dan Rather demands truth in journalism, I take it about as seriously as I would if Stephen Glass made the same demands. As far as what he’s upset over, it should really be a non-issue.
Does Donald Trump lie? Yes. Has Donald Trump lied within the past year? Absolutely. Is it the press’s job to call Donald Trump a liar?
It’s not as clear cut as “yes it is” and “no it isn’t.” The media as a whole is reeling from not just a bad year, but a bad decade or more. They have whored themselves out to the person or people who have most exemplified what they believe (both the left-leaning and the right-leaning media). Saying someone “lies” or is a “liar” isn’t going to fix that – the opposing side will just say “that’s just more of that biased media!” and go on.
As an aside, can anyone find out if Rather called Barack Obama out on the “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” line? How about that time he said “Fast and Furious” began under the Bush Administration? What about his claim that Mitt Romney would deny gay people the right to adopt children? No? Really? Okay.
I agree with the gist of what Baker was saying: it’s not the media’s job to put that label on someone. It has to be the reader who comes to that conclusion. And, he’s totally right in that regard. But that is a very thin line for Baker or anyone else to walk, and the media has made that tightrope narrower and narrower over the last eight years (or more). Ideally, no, you don’t go out and say “The President lied today when he said…”, but you do have to acknowledge the falsehoods without tiptoeing around them, which appears to be the interpretation Sargent, Rather, and others got from Baker’s statements.
However, if the argument against Baker is to be made, it should really be made by someone who isn’t standing by a thoroughly discredited story from more than a decade ago.