Donald Trump’s Disdain for Facts
The Trump administration can be summarized with the term “alternative facts”
By Lincoln Dow
The Progressive Teen Staff Writer
ON JANUARY 22, 2017, LESS THAN 48 HOURS into Donald Trump’s presidency, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway coined an instantly infamous phrase: “alternative facts.” Conway uttered the term in response to journalist Chuck Todd’s questioning of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s blatant lies told the day before at a press briefing. Spicer, likely at Trump’s instruction, summoned the White House press corps for a curt, five-minute lecture criticizing the media for accurately reporting the size of the inauguration and claimed that Trump’s inauguration was “the largest witnessed…both in person and around the globe.” This claim was made despite lower viewership numbers from the Washington Metro and fewer viewers according to Nielsen. While many administrations would quickly act to rescind the falsehoods of Spicer’s speech, Trump’s team doubled down on the lies, and Conway’s brash defense set the tone for the next week of the administration’s interactions with the media.
Peddling false claims and writing off unfavorable facts as “fake news” is nothing new for Donald Trump. When The New York Times published an exposé on Trump’s sexual harassment based on interviews and evidence, Trump, using his favorite communication tool — Twitter — bashed the well-respected publication as “dishonest” and a “disgusting fraud.” Even while criticizing the Times, during his presidential campaign, Trump asserted that Barack Obama was the founder of ISIS, Hillary Clinton started the Obama “birther” controversy, more than 30 million illegal immigrants resided in the United States, thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center, and that wide-scale voter fraud exists, a lie he’s continued to promote despite winning the election to explain his losing the popular vote. Trump’s disregard for the truth is more evident now than ever before, and he shows no signs of changing his ways despite occupying the world’s most powerful office.
In fact, twelve full days into Trump’s presidency, we’ve seen his administration continue their war with the media. On Saturday, Trump again called The New York Times “fake news” and suggested that it should be put up for sale or cease operations. The same day, he called The Washington Post “false and angry.” And on January 11, before Trump was even sworn in, he refused to take questions from CNN’s Jim Acosta at a press conference, calling the organization “fake news,” a now meaningless term due to Trump’s overuse. Journalists have largely continued to work with integrity and report the facts, but Trump’s disdain towards the media is unlike that of any other president in history, and news organizations should expect to face additional challenges in the next four years.
In fact, twelve full days into Trump’s presidency, we’ve seen his administration continue their war with the media.
At the same time, Donald Trump has mastered how to create diversions and fluff stories to avoid criticism and bolster the public image of his administration. A recent example is Trump’s executive order on the Affordable Care Act that he signed only hours after being sworn in. Though the order claims to “minimize the economic burden” of the ACA, the language of the order is vague, and because of this, the executive order doesn’t appear to accomplish much of anything. Frighteningly, Trump has also begun a crackdown on government agencies that dare to challenge his positions in any way, even when the facts on their side. Shortly after taking office, Trump ordered the suspension of several government agency social media accounts, including those of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service, and he even considered removing climate change data from the EPA’s website. This suppression of public access to research and information has spurred the creation of several alternative social media accounts (unofficial pages run by dissenting federal employees), notably the “Alt National Park Service,” with more than a million Facebook followers and representatives from 13 parks.
These early actions of the Trump Administration demonstrate a fundamentally different approach to public relations strategy than that of any other president. Donald Trump values his agenda more than facts, and he’s willing to take on the media and federal government agencies to protect his image. In essence, Trump’s strategy has been to prevent the American people from learning the truth, and if he keeps this up, the country is in for a rough four years.