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Why aren’t journalists holding Trump and his allies accountable for their lies and distortions?

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(AFP / Brendan Smialowski)

President Donald Trump has repeatedly described the mainstream press as “the enemy of the people” and claimed that reporters who fact-check him are promoting “fake news.” But Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has argued that journalists need to be more diligent about fact-checking Trump’s lies and distortions, and in a column published on August 10, the Never Trump conservative cites CBS News’ Paula Reid and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos as two examples of television journalists who recently gave the president or a close ally a well-needed fact-check.

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“I have made the case that far more journalists need to come armed to the teeth and ready to upset the president and his cronies with facts contradicting their exaggeration, spin and outright lies,” Rubin argues. “It struck me that we should also recognize — weekly, if I can find the examples! — when someone in the media gets it right. We had two fine examples over the weekend.”

Trump, Rubin notes, has claimed that he signed the Veterans Choice Act of 2014, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama. And Rubin applauds Reid for calling Trump out at a press conference.

“When confronted with his lie, Trump tried to move to another reporter,” Rubin explains. “That failed. Kudos to Reid for not letting Trump move on. Cornered, Trump fled the scene. Frankly, if a reporter is not making Trump uneasy with evidence to debunk his blatant falsehoods, mischaracterizations and delusional stories, he or she is not doing the job properly.”

On Sunday, August 9, Stephanopoulos’ interview with Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow aired on ABC’s “This Week.”  Kudlow, Rubin observes, “claimed that Trump’s so-called executive actions extended the eviction moratorium” that was enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic — and Stephanopoulos wouldn’t let Kudlow get away with that claim. Stephanopoulos, during the interview, told Kudlow, “In fact, the president doesn’t extend the federal eviction moratorium. I looked at the executive order; it doesn’t do that. It simply directs how to find a way to help people and identify federal funds. It doesn’t include extending the eviction moratorium.”

Rubin observes, “The gap between what Trump said was in the executive memorandums and what really was in them was as wide as the gap between what they said and what is constitutionally possible.”

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The Never Trumper concludes her column by stressing that journalists shouldn’t be shy about speaking out when Trump or one of this advisers says something that is blatantly false.

“This is like an open-book exam,” Rubin writes. “Reporters know the lies, and they have the goods. Now. they need to hold the (Trump) Administration accountable, just as Reid and Stephanopoulos did this weekend.”


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