Media Politics and civics

Two claims. Two lies. Straight reporting.

As it has in almost everything candidate and now president-elect Trump says, mainstream media report the statement. Not the fact that the statement is chock-full of lies.

In the wake of a CIA report that Russia intervened in our presidential election, the Trump transition team said:

These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and “Make America Great Again.”

And as it has in almost everything candidate and now president-elect Trump says, mainstream media report the statement. Not the fact that the statement is chock-full of lies.

Look at the headlines yourself.

google news
Google News search on Trump statement about CIA report on Russia


Lie Number 1

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

There have been countless post-mortems of the Bush Administration run-up to waging war in Iraq. Here is a contemporaneous one (2003, emphasis added):

Yet there was no consensus within the American intelligence community that Saddam represented such a grave and imminent threat. Rather, interviews with current and former intelligence officials and other experts reveal that the Bush administration culled from U.S. intelligence those assessments that supported its position and omitted those that did not. The administration ignored, and even suppressed, disagreement within the intelligence agencies and pressured the CIA to reaffirm its preferred version of the Iraqi threat.


In 2014, Rand Corporation issued an analysis of blunders leading up to war. Regarding the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Rand wrote (p. 162): “Major errors included misinterpretation and misuse of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD capability.” In addition:

Saddam had earlier tried to have assassins attack [Bush’s] father while on a Middle East trip. The fact that Saddam “tried to kill [his] dad” evidently weighed on his decision making (p. 164).

Rumsfeld raised the possibility of an invasion on September 11, 2001, as a potential “opportunity.”31 On September 17, Bush told his advisors: “I believe Iraq was involved.” Some in the administration felt that al Qaeda would be unable to organize an attack like September 11 without a state sponsor. With little intelligence to support this assertion, the administration continued to repeat that claim. (p. 165).

In July of 2002, British intelligence concluded that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”74 A State Department intelligence analyst concluded similarly that the administration was looking for evidence to support conclusions it had already drawn.75 The decision makers and their staffs did not listen to WMD experts like Charles Duelfer, who argued that there was no significant remaining stockpile.76 In fact, they sought to have two intelligence officers removed whose analysis did not comport to their view of events (p. 169).


And from 2015:

On Tuesday night, former CIA Deputy Director and Bush’s intelligence briefer Michael Morell appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” where he, under an amount of good cable news duress, admitted that the administration intentionally misrepresented intelligence.

Also from 2015, after the CIA declassified the document used to justify the Iraq Invasion:

Thirteen years ago, the intelligence community concluded in a 93-page classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq that it lacked “specific information” on “many key aspects” of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

But that’s not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.

Moreover, in the pot-kettle-black category, from September:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey, a vocal advocate of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq who promoted allegations that Saddam Hussein harbored illegal weapons, will serve as a senior national security adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the campaign announced on Monday…

Shortly after former President George W. Bush took office in 2001, Woolsey visited Britain on a Defense Department trip in a fruitless hunt for evidence that Saddam masterminded the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. He made a second visit to Britain for the same purpose shortly after Sept. 11, and again came up empty…

In 2000, Woolsey briefly served as a corporate officer of a foundation that managed U.S. funding for the Iraqi National Congress, the exile group that produced a series of defectors who peddled false information to bolster the allegations that Saddam was hiding illicit weapons programs. No such weapons or facilities have ever been found


Lie Number 2

“The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history.”

I wouldn’t call a month a “long time ago” but that’s not the lie.

The lie is that Trump’s win — should the Electoral College vote as a rubber stamp on December 19 — is “one of the biggest” in history.

It’s not.

It’s in the bottom quarter.

Bottom. Quarter.

Trump’s “win” puts him 46th out of 58 elections.

Ironically, Trump’s EC percentage edges JFK (56.88% versus 56.42%) while Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over Trump (2,840,202) is more than an order of magnitude greater than JFK’s over Richard Nixon (112,827).


Memo to Media: stop normalizing Trump’s lies.

Donald Trump is a serial liar,” Neal Gabler wrote in May.

Lies travel fast, as writers and preachers have lamented for centuries.

Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn, and she has neither vigour nor activity enough to pursue and overtake her enemy…(1787)

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it. If a lie be believed sometimes only for an hour, it has accomplished its purpose, and there is no further occasion for it. (1808)

Glenn Kessler at Fact Checker noted:

Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. He appears to care little about the facts; his staff does not even bother to respond to fact-checking inquiries… But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false… TV hosts should have a list of Trump’s repeated misstatements so that if he repeats them, as he often does, he can be challenged on his claims.

In his indictment, Kessler ignores the fact that newspaper renditions — which have the luxury of not being in the moment — also fail to hold him accountable.

This has to stop.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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