During an interview on CNN on Monday, frequent Fox News guest and American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp made a case that it is not the job of journalists to inform the public when the president or his spokespeople are lying.
Instead, Schlapp suggested journalists should just provide stenography of what government officials are saying, and let the American people do their best to sort out who is telling the truth — because otherwise the feelings of Trump supporters might get hurt.
“We have political disagreements in this country, and I think it’s wrong for journalists to take that next step,” Schlapp said. “Just present the facts. Let the American people decide if they think someone is lying. The journalist shouldn’t be the one to say the president or his spokesperson is lying, because what that does is to 50 percent of the country, is it makes them feel like they aren’t credible to listen to anymore.”
Schlapp, who is married to White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, was responding to comedian Michelle Wolf’s routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday evening. At one point, Wolf addressed Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ propensity to lie, saying, “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Here's Michelle Wolf's take on White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. https://t.co/9Hn6dbt9Mw
— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) April 29, 2018
Schlapp made a show of being offended by Wolf’s jokes, tweeting after the event ended that he and his wife “walked out early” because they had “[e]nough of elites mocking all of us.”
My wife @mercedesschlapp and I walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner. Enough of elites mocking all of us
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) April 29, 2018
They were not too offended to refrain from attending a WHCD afterparty at the Art Museum of the Americas, however.
While Schlapp’s position about it being “wrong” for journalists to call out the president’s lies might seem strange, Aaron Blake of the Washington Post notes that “[h]owever you feel about this policy, it is [how] most newsrooms operate. Saying ‘lie’ means ascertaining intent.”
However you feel about this policy, it is the how most newsrooms operate. Saying "lie" means ascertaining intent. https://t.co/OhMgCu0Chb
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) April 30, 2018
Even by that standard, however, Trump and his spokespeople lie. For instance, during a press briefing earlier this month, Sanders defended a claim Trump has repeatedly made about rampant voter fraud purportedly costing him the popular vote in 2016, despite the fact there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it. That certainly seems to be an untruth that the administration is spreading intentionally.
Trump has also ignored easy to access evidence to push claims that are widely known to be false about immigrant crime, crime in American cities, and about less significant things like the size of crowd at his inauguration ceremony.