CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday was flabbergasted after a New York Times report revealed Donald Trump continues to peddle a series of conspiracy theories that appear untethered to reality—including the racist birther lie alleging Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
The Times and the Washington Post on Tuesday both reported the president has taken to discrediting the infamous “Access: Hollywood” tape, wherein he bragged about committing sexual assault (a tape then-candidate Trump apologize for after it was released last October). He is also reportedly telling friends and aides that he still does not believe Obama’s birth certificate was authentic, and claims—against all evidence—that the only reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton is because of widespread voter fraud.
“It is his personality trait, and it is the kind of thing he continues to do to be Donald Trump as opposed to evolving into the President of the United States and all of the things that go with the traditions of being president,” CNN’s Dana Bash tried to explain to Lemon. “People didn't elect him to be a regular politician, I totally get that. But that's far different from pushing things that are false, pushing things that are not factual, and pushing things that are hurtful to people who had that office not that long ago.”
Lemon later turned to the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart, asking about a portion of the Times report that depicted Republican lawmakers joking about the president’s sanity.
“I wanted to get to one of the quotes here where it says a Republican lawmaker, I think it was a Senator, laughed at the president talking about, thought it was funny, but didn't want to be named on the record,” Lemon said. “How is that funny?”
“We're talking about cowardice here,” Beinart replied. “There's a few exceptions—he’s a brave man, Bob Corker—but most of them are too afraid of their political base to stand up to him.”
“Let's put the quote up,” Lemon continued. “There it is. ‘One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama's birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation.' Really? I mean, Dana, what's funny about that?”
“I got nothing, Don, I really don’t,” Bash replied. “Nothing is funny about it, except for the fact that it sounds like he believes he is being devilish, that he is being funny, that he's being Donald Trump. I mean he's been this guy for 71 years, and, you know, it isn't going to change. And it's unfortunate. Look, I’m not condoning this at all, but at least he's not saying this in public, which is what he said for many, many years until he got into the White House.”
“Okay,” Lemon replied, unconvinced.
“That's the best I can do, Don,” Bash said.
“Every single day and every time I come on I am at a loss for words as to how much this devolves into just an alternative universe,” Lemon said. “It's not even factual anymore. People are laughing because someone says, ‘I twist the facts,’ basically saying ‘I lie and it's acceptable.’ I don't know where we've gone.”