Washington Post keeps covering for GOP election lies
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Trump’s lies about the 2020 election continue to do extraordinary damage to our democracy, as his loyalists fan out across the country, demanding endless, bogus recounts and spreading wild lies about the American ballot process. The Washington Post recently detailed the deeply disturbing trend. But instead of being an honest truth-teller, the Post hid behind indefensible word-salad language, as part of the media’s long-running tradition of not calling Trump and his followers liars.
Timid news outlets like the Post are still hiding behind “falsehood” nonsense in 2021. This, as more stunned scholars are warning us that Republicans are clearly and deliberately putting American democracy at risk with their unprecedented and brazen attacks on free and fair elections.
The Post article originally ran under the headline, “Ballot Reviews Consume Trump as He Touts Falsehood of Stolen Election.”
Here’s how the Post described Trump’s lies:
• “Trump’s ceaseless attacks”
• “baseless theories”
• “unsubstantiated claims”
• “baseless claims”
• “baseless theories”
• “alleging without evidence”
• “The accusations”
• “false allegations”
This is not the normal, instinctive language people use when telling the story about nonstop lies. This is the strained language reporters opt for when they want to avoid blunt adjectives to describe deeply disturbing Republican behavior that threatens democracy. The Post used “lie” just once in its 3,000-word article about lies.
Stilted “falsehood” language like this isn’t employed by accident. It’s not a coincidence that Post reporters are burning through the thesaurus to find ways of not saying “lie.” It’s clearly a newsroom guideline to avoid the term in straight news coverage.
Editors at the Post, possibly responding to online criticism about the “falsehood” nonsense in the headline, later changed the article’s headline to, “Inspired by Arizona Recount, Trump Loyalists Push to Revisit Election Results in Communities Around The Country.” But the updated headline was arguably worse, since it eliminated the central premise that the Arizona “recount” was based on complete lies.
This would have been a better, more accurate Post headline: “Inspired by GOP Election Lies, Trump Loyalists Demand More Bogus Recounts.”
How is it that in the summer of 2021 major news outlets are still peddling “falsehood” gibberish in the face of the Republican Party’s increasingly undemocratic behavior? This is such a pointless, self-inflicted mistake that editors and producers choose to keep making, five years after they began covering Trump, who’s a pathological liar.
It happens all the time at the Post:
• “Trump’s Election Fraud Falsehoods Have Cost Taxpayers $519 million — and Counting”
• “For Republicans, Fealty to Trump’s Election Falsehood Becomes Defining Loyalty Test”
• “How the Election-Fraud Myth Was Spread by Russell Ramsland and the Texas Security Company ASOG”
• “Liz Cheney Refuses to Link Trump’s False Election Claims, GOP’s Push for New Voting Restrictions”
• “Stefanik Emphasizes Support for False Election Claims, Trump Movement Ahead of Leadership Vote”
Again, the GOP’s Big Lie is not a “falsehood,” a “myth,” or a “false claim.”
The good news is some key news players have fixed this problem and now are much more forthright in their language. Here’s the lede to a recent CNN article, which covered similar ground as the Post article: “Donald Trump is more obsessed than ever with the 2020 election and pushing his lie that there was widespread fraud that led to his defeat.”
After years of failing on this front, the New York Times last month let it be known that it would be using “lie” to describe Trump’s election propaganda. "In Turning on Liz Cheney, G.O.P. Bows to Trump’s Election Lies," one Times headline read. The next day, the Times published, "Cheney’s Replacement Repeats Trumps Lies as Party Looks Ahead."
Others hopped onboard:
• "The 15 Most Notable Lies of Donald Trump's Presidency" (CNN)
• "Legacy of Lies -- How Trump Weaponized Mistruths During His Presidency" (ABC News)
So what explains the Post’s stubbornness?
And what’s so distressing is that as he prepared his retirement from the Washington Post as editor this winter, Marty Baron specifically noted the daily should have called out Trump's lies more forcefully:
We had to be much more forthright about Trump’s mendacity, his lies over the course of the administration. We needed to call them that from the very beginning. We were very much operating on good principle; and let’s be fair, he was president, he was duly elected. But he was exploiting that. He was exploiting our principles. That said, I don’t think it would have made any great difference.
Baron conceded the Post knew it should've been labeling Trump a liar instead of hiding behind a carousel of euphemisms — "falsehoods," "false claims," "inaccurate claims.” But the Post kept its head down, and it’s still making the same egregious misstep today, as Trump fantasizes about being “reinstated” in the White House this summer.
The Post this month is settling in under its new editor, Sally Buzbee. An early, welcome move from her would be to flush the newsroom use of hollow, misleading phrases like “allegations” and “falsehoods” when reporting on the GOP’s ugly election lies.
(Photo: Getty Images)
📻 GOOD STUFF:
The dissenting voices within the GOP who are willing to stand up to Trump’s election madness are becoming fewer and fewer.
But here’s an interesting update from the Los Angeles Times’ weekend piece, “A Conservative Talk Radio Host Once Backed the Arizona GOP Election Recount. Now He’s Warning Republicans Against It”:
[Mike] Broomhead is not shy about his opinions — that’s the whole point of being a talk radio host. But anytime he starts to talk about the recount’s backers, his tread becomes notably lighter.
“I don’t want to make the people that believe this angry,” he explained during a commercial break. “I don’t think they are crazy. I think that these are people that genuinely believe the election was stolen.”
Every time he talks about those involved, be it officials like [Karen] Fann or Ken Bennett, a former GOP secretary of state who has largely been the recount’s public face, or the volunteer ballot inspectors at the coliseum, he takes pains to praise their intentions. Nevertheless, he catches heat from some listeners who accuse him of being biased against the effort.
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