Dear Mr. Baker

Gerard Baker is The Wall Street Journal’s editor in chief.


You have a strangely nuanced view of what is or is not a lie when it comes to the utterances and tweets of President-elect Trump.

Here’s what you said (Trump, ‘Lies’ and Honest Journalism): “[A] ‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

While true, that’s not the whole picture.

On a number of occasions, Mr. Trump has lied when – after given evidence contrary to his initial statement – he continues to (intentionally) stick to his original statement.

According to Washington Post Fact-Checker Glenn Kessler, “Donald Trump repeatedly defended his claim that the Mexican government is sending criminals and rapists to the United States. But a range of studies shows there is no evidence immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans.” Kessler rated this 4 Pinocchios because, in spite of evidence to the contrary, Mr. Trump continued make this claim.

That is a lie, Mr. Baker.

“Fox News host Megyn Kelly,” Kessler continues, “asked Donald Trump a pointed question about his verbal treatment of women. On the Sunday shows, Trump refused to apologize — and further asserted that Kelly lists things he did not say. But there is ample evidence for each of the slurs against women uttered or tweeted by Trump. He had a small point that he attacks once he is provoked, but there is little doubt that the over-the-top language cited by Kelly was correct.” Kessler rates it, 4 Pinocchios.

When he contradicts the evidence of his own previous statements, that is a lie, Mr. Baker.

Kessler points out that “As of Nov. 3, about 64 percent (59 of 92) of our rulings of his statements turned out to be Four Pinocchios, our worst rating. By contrast, most politicians tend to earn Four Pinocchios 10 to 20 percent of the time.” writes of Trump’s “Nov. 21 claim to have watched on television as ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims in New Jersey were ‘cheering’ the fall of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Multiple news organizations and the New Jersey attorney general’s office searched for evidence of public celebrations at the time of 9/11 and found none.

“ ‘Never happened,’ former state Attorney General John J. Farmer, a Republican appointee who later served as a senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, wrote in response to Trump.”

When Trump blatantly ignores the evidence, and continues to repeat his statement, that’s a lie, Mr. Baker.

Trump consistently suffers from the self-delusion that because he says or tweets something, that presto-change o, it’s true.

Trump tweets: “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias.”

Politifact rated it Pants-on-Fire.

Absent evidence, that’s a lie, Mr. Baker.

Again, without offering any evidence, Trump tweets: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Politifact: “no evidence,” Pants-on-Fire.

The list of Mr. Trump’s false statements and lies is longer than any candidate in recent history,  (and yes, I’m including President Obama and Secretary Clinton on that list), Mr. Baker.

If a Journal reporter continued to report a false claim in the face of clear evidence to the contrary (in other words, lie), how long would that reporter continue to work at the Journal?

Journalism is a vital form of public trust.

“As a watchdog,” ethicist Michael Josephson writes, “the press should be fair, vigilant and aggressive in assuring that people of influence are held accountable.”

In future coverage of President Trump, I hope you and The Journal are not only careful about using the term “lie,” but will be unafraid to call out Mr. Trump when he routinely repeats statements contrary to the available facts.

1 comment… add one
  • Thom January 7, 2017, 9:03 am

    Jim, thanks for calling out the WSJ on this spin. Interesting times are coming…
    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Joseph Goebbels

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