Most of what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth is a steaming pile of bullshit. This is a well-documented fact. But for the last few years, some members of the media have been criticized for their reluctance to declare outright that Trump is a Liar who Lies, often choosing instead to refer to his “untruths” and “exaggerations.” The debate over whether or not reporters should call Trump a liar resurfaced again over the weekend when New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman referred on Twitter to some “demonstrable falsehoods” Trump spewed on Saturday:
Haberman’s tweet spawned a slew of critics—including Chrissy Teigen and John Cusack—to call her out for softening her language. Haberman argued that she can’t always call Trump a liar because it’s not clear whether he actually knows he’s lying, or is such a deluded idiot he actually believes grass is purple and the sky is green. “I have written stories about his lies, falsehoods, whoppers, half-truths, salesman-like stretches,” Haberman tweeted. “The reality is that what he does can be hard to label because, as anyone who has worked for him will tell you in candor, he often thinks whatever he says is what’s real.”
Other reporters and editors, including Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker, have made a similar argument re: calling Trump a liar, noting that a journalist’s job is to report the facts, and that if you can’t prove someone had the intent to lie, you can’t definitively report that the “untruth” that tumbled out their mouth hole was indeed calculated. This debate harkens back to the days of our last demonstrably monstrous president, Richard Nixon, who lied so much and so often I’m not even sure Nixon was his real name, and forced the press to decide whether they could still stay objective while determining the president’s intent.
Article after article depicts Trump as an addled TV-addicted toddler narcissist who still thinks he’s the star of a reality game show, and not the so-called leader of the free world. I wouldn’t be surprised if he believed all the horse shit dribbling out of him, whether it’s because he’s surrounded himself with sycophants desperate to keep him level, or if he’s a compulsive liar who lies so readily he can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what he concocted himself. I can see where, in the pursuit of objectivity, a journalist would wait a minute before declaring Trump actively lied.
Then again, I’d also argue that it doesn’t really matter whether Trump’s bullshit is called a “lie” or an “untruth” or a “demonstrable falsehood,” as long as it’s clear that whatever the President said is indeed not true. The technical difference between “lie” and “untruth” is a precision of wording that hedges just enough in an industry reliant on accuracy. But, as Merriam-Webster points out, the definition of falsehood is “an untrue statement : lie”; an untruth is “something that is untrue : falsehood,” i.e., also a lie. Certainly, words matter. On the other hand, these words all pretty much mean the same thing, if the intent changes ever so slightly.
On the other other hand, Trump is a lying liar liarface, whether he knows it or not. Scream it at him daily. It doesn’t matter if the Times does. They’re not going to call him a diarrhea blowhole either, but I am!