Judy Woodruff Explains Why PBS NewsHour Doesn’t Say Trump Is ‘Lying’

By Jason Lynch 

A day after Christiane Amanpour and Meredith Vieira made news at their respective PBS sessions during the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A., Judy Woodruff continued the trend when she and her PBS NewsHour colleagues talked about how their show has adjusted to the Donald Trump presidency.

Most notably, PBS NewsHour has decided not to use the word “lying” to describe falsehoods uttered by President Trump or others in his administration. “’Lying; is not a term we can use lightly,” said Woodruff, NewsHour’s anchor and managing editor, explaining that lying means intentionally using that term intentionally trying to deceive, and “we can’t know what’s in someone’s mind.”

Instead, here’s how the program handles untruthful statements from Trump or others: If they “cannot be born out by the facts, we say something is ‘inaccurate,’” said Woodruff.

PBS NewsHour recently aired a segment focusing on “the truth and President Trump,” said Woodruff. “We try to look at, what is the phenomenon of what the president is doing here, rather than trying to assess and judge every statement.” However, she added, “if the president cites a trade deficit number that’s incorrect, we do point that out.”

With the relentless, frenetic news cycle under Trump, “we’ve never been busier, but all of us feel, we can’t let the Trump presidency drive all of our news coverage,” said Woodruff.

Prior to the panel, PBS announced that NewsHour is preparing its most comprehensive coverage of the midterm elections on PBS to date. According to the release,

On coverage of the midterm elections, NewsHour will tap into local newsrooms and resources for coverage of U.S. Senate, House and gubernatorial races where the results will have national political significance, moderate local and state debates, and provide a toolkit of resources available for use on broadcast and online in the months leading up to and on Election Day, November 6, 2018.

Among the resources, the release continued, NewsHour “will provide stations with live, customizable real-time election graphics and maps powered by Associated Press data for use in their local broadcasts on November 6.”

Lisa Desjardins, Capitol Hill correspondent, noted that PBS has 350 affiliate stations, which she said is more than the roughly “200” affiliates networks like CBS and ABC have. “We’re planted in these communities in a way those other networks aren’t,” Desjardins said, which is particularly important in a year with so many key local elections.

“You really cannot overemphasize the importance of these midterm elections,” said Woodruff.