Kristof: How to cover a charlatan like Trump
Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times:
If a known con artist peddles a potion that he claims will make people lose 25 pounds and enjoy a better sex life, we don’t just quote the man and a critic; we find ways to signal to readers that he’s a fraud. Why should it be different when the con man runs for president?
Frankly, we should be discomfited that many Americans have absorbed the idea that Hillary Clinton is less honest than Donald Trump, giving Trump an edge in polls of trustworthiness.
Hello? There is no comparison.
…even if Trump seems to be a Teflon candidate, to whom almost nothing sticks, we must still do our jobs. We owe it to our audiences to signal that most of us have never met a national candidate as ill-informed, deceptive or evasive as Trump.
What I suggest isn’t the sharp departure from journalistic custom that some accuse me of. In the early 1950s, journalists were also faced with how to cover a manipulative demagogue — Senator Joe McCarthy — and traditional evenhandedness wasn’t serving the public interest. We honor Edward R. Murrow for breaking with journalistic convention and standing up to McCarthy, saying: “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent.”
Likewise, in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, it was not enough to quote from news conferences by each side. Great journalists like Claude Sitton and Karl Fleming took enormous risks to reveal the brutality of the Jim Crow South.
Our job is not stenography, but truth-telling. As we move to the debates, let’s remember that to expose charlatans is not partisanship, but simply good journalism.
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