CNN's fact-checker Daniel Dale bemoaned the fact that many news outlets are still reluctant to use the word "lie" when it comes to Donald Trump and others, even after we've watched the serial-liar-in-chief for the last four years.
December 28, 2020

CNN's fact-checker Daniel Dale bemoaned the fact that many news outlets are still reluctant to use the word "lie" when it comes to Donald Trump and others, even after we've watched the serial-liar-in-chief for the last four years. One thing that is a fact is that Trump has kept this guy extremely busy for years, trying to keep up with the deluge of gaslighting bulls**t streaming from both his Twitter feed, and his mouth on a constant basis.

STELTER: Let me bring Dale in for a conversation about what these four years have been like. Do you think fact check is the best word? Or is it reality checking at this point? What is it that you do?

DALE: I think fact check is fine. I think, you know, the broader pieces where we take a step back and look at the dishonest narratives rather than a particular claim. You can call that reality checking or something of the like. Fundamentally, whatever you call it, it's about providing readers, viewers with the truth behind the lies and other deceptions, if you don't want to use the word lies, that they are getting from the president and other public officials.

STELTER: What about you and the word lies? This used to be a big deal. People would debate this for hours and hours, and now I don't hear those debates anymore.

DALE: You know what? I would disagree. I think that in many newsrooms, thankfully not ours, not at CNN, but I think in much of this country newsrooms are still to this day, you know, at the end of the Trump presidency reluctant or even unwilling to use the word lie.

Certainly in news copy. They might leave it to the columnists. You know, they might leave it to the editorial board. In those realms, it's fine. But I think objectively... it could and should be in a news story every day about president Donald Trump, and it still isn't happening.

Thankfully, CNN took a different approach from the beginning. In my negotiations with CNN to come from the Toronto Star, I asked them, is it okay if I keep saying lie? You're fine with that? They are like, yeah, that's cool. That's accurate. That was a big relief to me. I think it says something that I didn't just take that for granted, because other newsrooms aren't the same way. […]

STELTER: Our job is to call lies, lies, and stand on the side of truth. It shouldn't be that hard. Like you said it's not the hardest job in the world as we long as we keep our back up straight.

DALE: That's exactly right. I think for a lot of reporters and even beyond reporters, for editors, publishers, CEOs, people who run media outlets, I think for a lot of them it's like, well, we are going to be called biased if we say in our news copy that someone is lying. Even if we don't use the word lie, if we say in the news copy someone is not telling the truth or saying something false.

And so, I've tried really hard to argue that calling a lie a lie or a falsehood a falsehood if you are afraid of the word lie, that's not bias. That is objective truth. That's objective reporting. And when we shy away from that, Brian, I think it does damage to readers and viewers' trust in us, because readers and viewers want people, journalists who tell it like it is. And if we are afraid to tell it like it is, I think that erodes our credibility with a significant segment of the population.

I agree with Dale that CNN has been better than a lot of other outlets when it comes to calling out Trump for his lies, but they still allow way too many politicians and pundits to come on their shows and spew nonsense, and spread lies unchecked. They've gotten rid of some of the worst of them, but last I checked, Rick Santorum was still employed there.

The problem isn't just being accused of bias either, although he's correct that that has something to do with it. It's also about fear of losing access to these politicians. They're going to continue to have credibility problems as long as access, both-siderism, and allowing pundits on to lie for the sake of "balance" means more to them than always telling their viewers the truth.

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