Should the Press Call Donald Trump a Liar?

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The LA Times headline for Donald Trump’s big attack speech yesterday is on the right. Trump called Hillary Clinton a “liar,” but his own speech included “falsehoods.” Here’s a small sample of other headlines:

  • New York Times: Donald Trump Returns Fire, Calling Hillary Clinton a ‘World-Class Liar’
  • USA Today: Amid campaign troubles, Trump blasts Clinton as ‘world-class liar’
  • Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Attacks Hillary Clinton as ‘Corrupt’….Presumptive Republican presidential nominee accuses Democratic rival of using State Department for ‘personal profit’
  • CBS: Donald Trump’s speech on Hillary Clinton filled with distortions

The traditional media has something of a taboo against using the word lie. Generally speaking, this is for the best. But now we’re faced with a new situation: a presidential candidate who uses the word constantly while spouting obvious lies himself. This is not a partisan complaint: Virtually everyone who covers Trump agrees that he lies constantly and with gusto.

So should the old custom still hold? I’m not so sure. If Trump is going to loudly call Hillary Clinton a liar at every opportunity, perhaps his own lies should be called what they are. Not falsehoods. Not distortions. Lies.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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