Kudos to Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist, for calling out Lesley Stahl’s performance in her Sunday interview with Donald Trump and Mike Pence. About halfway through, Trump tossed out his usual lie about having opposed the Iraq War from the start:
That claim, which Trump has made a cornerstone of his campaign, is “blatantly false,” according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and many other similar efforts. Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking operation, also called it false. And BuzzFeed dug up a 2002 interview in which Trump said he supported the invasion.
….But Stahl — busy trying to herd the other rhetorical cats set loose in the interview — did not say what she should have, something like this: “No, Mr. Trump, that is simply false, and I’m not going to let that go unchallenged.” Instead, she let the man who could be president get away with it, basically affirming his falsehood by twice saying, “Yeah,” as he stated it.
I’ll grant that interviewing Trump is a challenge. He throws out casual lies so often that it’s hard to address them without letting the entire interview go off track. But of course, this is what Trump counts on. Stahl had other things she wanted to get to, and anyway, she’s probably hoping to get future interviews with Trump. How likely is that if she interrupts to tell Trump he’s lying?
So that’s that. Nobody on TV wants to challenge Trump on this stuff because they don’t want to be blacklisted. And after a while it gets boring anyway. So they just say “Yeah,” and move along. The result is that Trump has free rein to repeat his lies endlessly on network TV, and millions of viewers believe him. Why wouldn’t they? They don’t read the Washington Post’s fact checker, after all.
I suppose this is the strategy with Melania Trump’s obvious plagiarism, too. Just deny that it happened, and before long everyone is bored and stops asking about it. It seems crazy, but it works.