By Tom Johnson ~
In the presidential debate this coming Monday, The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart wants moderator Lester Holt to set a tone that the moderators of the subsequent debates would maintain. Each should “confront [Donald] Trump in ways they’ve never confronted a candidate before,” wrote Beinart earlier this week.
“The more audaciously he lies, the more audaciously they must tell the truth. The risks of doing so are tremendous. The rewards are being able to say that when Donald Trump threatened American liberal democracy like no candidate in modern history, you met his challenge square on.” Beinart noted that “since Trump has largely stopped giving interviews to anyone except campaign sycophants and celebrity lightweights, the debates may serve as his last encounter with actual journalists.”
Beinart discussed the longstanding tacit mutual agreement under which “candidates stretch the truth, but try not to be too blatant about it. Candidates appeal to bigotry, but subtly. In turn, journalists respond with a delicacy of their own. They quote partisans rather than saying things in their own words. They use euphemisms like ‘polarizing’ and ‘incendiary,’ instead of ‘racist’ and ‘demagogic.’”
The title was “The Death of ‘He Said, She Said’ Journalism.” Beinart adored how The New York Times abandoned any pretense of objectivity by denouncing Trump’s lies about Obama’s birth as lies, more like an editorial than a news story. (But failing to call Hillary’s lies such a thing isn’t discussed.)The rules for politicians, bent in prior campaigns, now have been broken, and Beinart indicated that the media need to behave accordingly (bolding added):
Trump has done something unprecedented. He has so brazenly lied, so nakedly appealed to bigotry, and so frontally challenged the rule of law that he has made the elite media’s decorum absurd. He’s turned highbrow journalists into referees in a World Wrestling Entertainment match.
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.