Donald Trump has accused the media of bias and dishonesty, but his newest attack on the press has broken new ground in its brazenness — and its complete divorce from reality.
Speaking to troops from the military’s Central Command headquarters (CENTCOM) in Florida Monday, Trump accused the press of intentionally covering up terrorist attacks. No, seriously. The president of the US actually said that:
Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland, as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino and all across Europe. You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe. It’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.
This is, of course, nonsense. Terrorist attacks in the Western world tend to be some of the most widely covered and widely followed of all news stories — often reported out exhaustively by not only American but international press. The incentive behind this was pointed out by NPR’s Phil Ewing on Twitter.
Oh man, I saw, like, 5 terror attacks on the way in this morning but we totally aren't reporting them as we don't like having a big audience https://t.co/o7UWFY8Ct1— Phil Ewing (@philewing) February 6, 2017
Trump’s advisers say some ridiculous things. The president just outdid them.
Trump’s comments come in the wake of another fake conspiracy theory his administration has been peddling about the press. Last week, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway referenced a fake terrorist attack that she called the “Bowling Green Massacre,” saying of the invented attack’s lack of notoriety, “most people don't know that because it didn't get covered.”
As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp writes: “Most people don’t know about it because it didn’t happen.” Conway continued to lie about what happened in Bowling Green after Cosmopolitan noted that she’d spread that falsehood before.
As Vox’s Ezra Klein points out, comments like Conway’s and Trump’s may be part of the administration’s efforts to control its own public appearance and manipulate what information is considered fact:
Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals. It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality.
Those who’d hoped President Trump would behave differently than candidate Trump have already been disappointed again and again. Even his close aides, as my colleague Yochi Dreazen has pointed out, have been leaking material painting him as a petulant toddler with a short attention span.
It’s bad enough when trusted Trump advisers like Conway lie. Having a president who is either unwilling or unable to accept the reality of what he sees around him — and who instead slanders the press with an obvious falsehood — goes from disturbing to dangerous.