Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In Calling Manafort a Liar, Chris Cuomo Broke Normal Beltway Rules of Decorum

You don't 'want to get too optimistic yet, but maybe the media is starting to get a little more aggressive with the Trump campaign.

At least Chris Cuomo did this morning with Paul Manafort.

"Near the end of a Wednesday-morning interview in which he tried (unsuccessfully) over and over to get an admission of plagiarism, CNN's Chris Cuomo decided to be very blunt with Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort."

"I can't move on because you keep lying," Cuomo said.

"There are two big things to unpack in one little retort. One is Cuomo's relentlessness on the subject of plagiarized material in Melania Trump's address to the Republican National Convention Monday night; the other is his use of the "L" word — lying."

The media has been criticized a good deal for not using the word lying in in conjunction with Donald Trump and his campaign.

Yet, the media finds this use of the 'L' word as controversial in itself.

"Cuomo's unvarnished assertion that Manafort "keep[s] lying" matters, too, because mainstream journalists have been so reluctant to attach variations of the word "lie" to the Trump campaign. Reporters have mostly stuck with less-loaded terms such as "factual inaccuracies," or "false statements." Word choice is significant because "lie" suggests intent; calling a statement "false" or "inaccurate" leaves open the possibility that the speaker got it wrong but didn't mean to."

"The Fix's Philip Bump elaborated on this idea last fall when he explained "why the media won't say Donald Trump is lying":

"The problem that arises is that we can't know his intentionality. Unless Trump comes out and says something equivalent to, "I was trying to deceive people," we can't say with certainty that this was his intention — no matter how obvious it may seem and no matter how many times in the past we've wondered about his intentionality. One time, the boy who cried wolf actually saw wolves."

"So that's why reporters usually don't say Trump or his aides are "lying," even if it seems clear that they are. But Cuomo set aside such prudence, apparently certain that Manafort intended to deceive viewers about plagiarized sections of Melania Trump's speech."

"The question is whether this is a one-time thing or a sign that journalists are getting bolder as Trump — now officially the GOP nominee — barrels on toward Election Day."

Here's the thing. If you need to know perfectly the thought process of why someone says something false to call it a lie, it's impossible to ever call anyone a liar.

In any case, Jay Rosen has warned the media that Trump is crashing the system and that stronger measures may be called for.

"Traditionally, journalists have called out untruths. Here they may have to explain how untruths are foundational to a candidacy. Traditionally, journalists have thought it “ethical” not to worry about the consequences of election coverage: as long as it was truthful, accurate and newsworthy, all was well. Here they may have to worry that their checking actions have no effect, and regroup around that discovery."

"One of the assumptions of campaign coverage was that candidates would never use their huge platforms to spread malicious rumors and unreliable information for which they have no proof: Too risky, too ugly. Trump has crashed that premise too. When called out on his rumormongering, he just says: Hey, it’s out there already. For journalists, this changes the practice of giving the candidate a broadcast platform. Just by granting that platform you may be participating in a misinformation campaign. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?"

In fairness, I have seen the media make this point regarding Melania's cribbed speech. They have pointed out that judging the half assed way Trump run's his campaign it's impossible to be reassured by his glib assurance that he'll just 'higher the right people' and provide 'good management' as POTUS.

"Imagine a candidate who wants to increase public confusion about where he stands on things so that voters give up on trying to stay informed and instead vote with raw emotion. Under those conditions, does asking “Where do you stand, sir?” serve the goals of journalism, or does it enlist the interviewer in the candidate’s chaotic plan?"

The Daily News' Josh Greenman considers this possibility in a piece today.

Back to Rosen:

"They may need to collaborate across news brands in ways they have never known. They may have to call Trump out with a forcefulness unseen before. They may have to risk the breakdown of decorum in interviews and endure excruciating awkwardness. Hardest of all, they will have to explain to the public that Trump is a special case, and the normal rules do not apply."

Arguably, Cuomo took a step in this direction today.


  1. Good for Cuomo! But with Manafort's Russian mob ties, let's hope he stays safe out there.

    O/T: very good short video (4 min) by NYTimes about Republicans without a party in the face of Trump:

    Video about Trump/RNC/Preibus goons shutting down all dissent:

  2. RedState's Ben Howe puts together a trailer for (what should be) a film called "The Sociopath" about Donald Trump:

    Howe is openly supporting Hillary.