Let’s not beat around the bush: Donald Trump is a serial liar. Almost everything that spills out of his insecure little mouth or springs forth from his Twitter account is either fabricated, exaggerated, finessed, or truncated. He dismisses as fake any evidence or fact that contradicts his lies. He shares as gospel any cockamamie poll or half-baked rumor that pads his ego. He is a man who operates entirely outside the boundaries of reality, and the problem is only worsening the longer his term drags on.
This is partly because Donald Trump’s media diet is about as healthy as his actual diet. His Fox News obsession is well-documented, but comb through his tweets — particularly the recent ones — and you realize that Fox News might actually be the high watermark. Breitbart, the Washington Examiner, and a parade of nameless sources from which Trump pulls fake numbers out of thin air also feature heavily on his timeline.
Oddly though, when measuring the impact that original reporting has on Donald Trump’s addled brain, the collective efforts of the far-right media fall well short of what the so-called “fake news” has been able to accomplish.
To witness this phenomenon in action, you need only focus on Trump’s comments over the past week. Two stories have dominated the news: last week’s testimony by FBI official Peter Strzok before the joint House Intelligence and Oversight Committees, and this week’s calamitous summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, coupled with the indictments of more than a dozen Russian intelligence operatives.
Both stories provided Trump with an opportunity to air out two of his favorite lines of attack: the Russia investigation as a biased witch hunt; and the lack of focus on Hillary Clinton’s private emails.
Let’s start with Strzok. For months, Donald Trump has been attacking the law enforcement officer over a series of leaked text messages sent during the campaign that purportedly show he was biased against Trump. The accusation is that Strzok’s involvement with Robert Mueller’s investigation — which ended months ago — hopelessly tarnishes the entire endeavor.
Unmentioned in his repeated attacks on Strzok and the U.S. intelligence community is the fact that the first news organization to expose Strzok’s problematic messages was the Wall Street Journal.
The same goes for Hillary Clinton’s emails. Donald Trump has insisted that the real scandal isn’t the fact that his campaign colluded with Russia (they did), but the existence of private emails belonging to Hillary Clinton. It’s been a line of attack dating back to the campaign, and it was entirely made possible by the investigative work of…The New York Times, another frequent target of Trump’s scorn. Way back in March of 2015, the paper of record published its first of many (some argue too many) reports on Clinton’s private email server, touching off months of breathless coverage across the news media.
Time and again, Trump leans heavily on the journalistic efforts of the very same “fake news” media he despises. He’s forced into that particular conundrum thanks to the sheer incompetence of the crop of far-right outlets he would prefer to rely on. The Daily Caller’s stabs at investigative reporting have ended in hilarious yet predictable calamity. James O’Keefe’s undercover sting operations have landed him in federal court. Breitbart’s former editor was Steve Bannon. All of them are utterly useless, so instead, Donald Trump is forced to rely on “fake news” for his real news.
It’s all rather embarrassing, or at least would be for a man capable of shame. But if Donald Trump has proven himself to be good at anything, it’s his ability to wantonly discard everything in his life the second it stops being useful, whether a marriage or a masthead.