Lying Politicians: A Conundrum for the Washington Post

What does the Washington press corps do when a president brazenly lies?

Nothing, usually.

But every now and then, the lie cannot be ignored – especially if a president confesses during a national press conference. 

The Washington Post, in its initial article on the day after the press conference, noted that Bush “appeared to acknowledge having misled reporters.” But that was a momentary admission.  The Post revised this article and deleted any reference to Bush acknowledging having misled reporters. (Glenn Greenwald has the full details and an excellent analysis here.)

So today, Howard Kurtz – the Post’s pious media critic –  blathers along in a page 4 piece:

Did the president of the United States make a rare admission on national television that he had told an untruth?Or had he merely engaged in a dodge of the sort that is common in politics?Journalists by nature shy from pinning the “liar” label on any political leader, but President Bush’s acknowledgments that he had not been forthcoming about his plans to dump Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have kicked up a fuss at the White House and sparked a debate about the limits of presidential evasion.

I have never understood the journalism profession. Why in Hades would journalists “shy from pinning the “liar” label on any political leader”?

I have never understood the journalism profession. Why in Hades would journalists “shy from pinning the “liar” label on any political leader”?If politicians are lying, and you pretend they’re not lying, you are an accomplice to their deceit. 

Deference to the government is now the trademark of the American media—at least at times when the truth could have the greatest impact. The media was grossly negligent in failing to question or examine Bush’s claims on the road to war. When journalists dig up the truth, editors sometimes ignore or bury their reports. Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks complained that, in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “There was an attitude among editors: ‘Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?’” New York Times White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller explained the press’s conduct at a Bush press conference just before he invaded Iraq: “I think we were very deferential because… nobody wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.”  After the war started—and after Bush’s claims turned out to be false— it was often treated as a one-day story, buried in the back of the front section or on the editorial page.

Of course, the real mystery is why the media has as much credibility with the American public as used car dealers.


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6 Responses to Lying Politicians: A Conundrum for the Washington Post

  1. Original Steve November 11, 2006 at 5:59 am #

    They really didnt seem to want to do much with this story, did they? They also still have these same old farts on the cable shows yapping about the GOP. Like them or not, I’d like to see some of the new leadership in the press being interviewed, etc….

    Hope you are well, JB.

  2. Original Steve November 11, 2006 at 6:00 am #

    Oh, and I forgot to add, I am looking forwadr to your portrayal of the blue team as they take the helm! I know you will trust them!

  3. Brian Wilson November 11, 2006 at 7:02 am #

    “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘lie’ is…”
    George W. Clinton

  4. Jim November 11, 2006 at 8:17 am #

    Steve – yes, it is funny to watch a Washington journalist in the presence of political lying. Sort of like someone in the presence of some elderly person who loudly broke wind – the journalists squirm and hope no one notices.

    … I will pen out some thoughts on the ‘Blue Team’ shortly…

  5. Jim November 11, 2006 at 8:19 am #

    Brian – Kurtz’s article did discuss Clinton’s comment on the unartful intern as an example of a lie that people could call a lie.

    I don’t understand why one speckled dress is more worthy of honest analysis than thousands of dead American soldiers.

  6. Tom Blanton November 12, 2006 at 12:25 am #

    I am shocked, shocked. How dare a major newspaper even insinuate the Imperial President “told an untruth” or engaged in some cheap political “dodge”? Why, this amounts to treason when we are at war for the very survival of the western world.

    Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this neocon fascist rhetoric – maybe I can get a gig as a Clear Channel shock jock.

    Yo, Brian – don’t be dragging my man George Clinton into this. I’m hoping he will become President and funkadelicize Washington.