The Most Important Word in Washington Today: Lie


I understand why reporters don’t like to use the word lie. It’s emotionally charged. You have to be absolutely sure that you’re referring to something that’s flatly, factually wrong, not merely exaggerated or cherry picked. And you have to be sure that the speaker knows he’s telling a lie.

Those are the rules. They aren’t my rules, but that’s neither here nor there. What they mean is that very few statements from politicians qualify as lies.

But this is the very reason that reporters need to start using it in this campaign. Donald Trump has basically hacked the media, using their own customs and traditions against them. He knows he can say anything he wants and will get away with it because reporters are so loath to call anything a lie.

But Donald Trump lies. He says Hillary Clinton started the birther controversy. He says Clinton has no policy on maternity leave or child care. He says we know nothing about Hillary Clinton’s religion. He says that crime is at record levels. He says the “true” unemployment rate is 40 percent. He says he saw thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11. He says he opposed the Iraq War.

These things are plain and simple lies. Sure, it’s an emotionally charged word, but that’s the very reason reporters need to start using it. Because even by the strict standards of mainstream journalism, this is what Donald Trump traffics in. The public needs to understand that Trump goes far beyond normal political puffery, and the only way to do this is to take a deep breath and tell the truth: Donald Trump lies. Constantly.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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