Last week, the question of truth in politics centered in part around how good a job television news does of fact-checking the presidential candidates. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has maintained that he “saw” people in New Jersey cheer the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in 2001. “Thousands of people were cheering.”
Trump doubled down on that claim Monday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “we are not loved by many Muslims.”
60 Minutes legal analyst Andrew Cohen argues it’s essential to call out falsehoods:
It is the opposite of journalism to call something “controversial” when in fact it is demonstrably false. Now more than ever, when so much fiction and hoax is passed off as truth on the campaign trail, journalists have a professional responsibility, if not a moral obligation, to set the record straight, loudly and quickly, before the myth these politicians seek to perpetuate takes public hold. There is no room today for any sort of cheesy false equivalence, for pretending that one idea or thought or theory is equal to every other.
Writing in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi worries that unlike elections past, the media’s role as fact-checker “has broken down this election season. Politicians are quickly learning that they can say just about anything and get away with it.”
Tabby doesnt blame the networks, though. “It’s our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games”:
What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.