Trump is wrong, even when he’s right

trumpcnnDonald Trump has a remarkable ability to let his worst characteristics shine through even when he happens, by pure chance, to be right about something.

Buzzfeed published some completely unconfirmed allegations about Trump’s personal life. The site even acknowledged that they had absolutely no idea if the allegations were true. CNN then reported that Buzzfeed had reported on them. A CNN journalist then created a story which real journalists could legitimately cover by trying to shout down the then President Elect at a rare Trump press conference, and even shout down a journalist when Trump, rightly, called a journalist instead of a gossip to ask him a question.

So, Trump is the victim, right? Some in the media have abandoned any pretense of journalistic ethics to “report” on unconfirmed allegations. Trump, correctly, described the CNN correspondent as a purveyor of fake news.

And then Trump went on to say that it was “maybe the intelligence agencies” that released the allegations that Buzzfeed published. As far as we know, Trump made up this allegation on the spot. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back it up. It may have been the intelligence agencies. It may have Filipino Jockey Club or Egyptian Women’s Arm Wrestling Circle. In the absence of any evidence, it may have been anyone. But the President Elect should not be speculating about that. Context suggests he was talking about the American intelligence agencies – the ones that will shortly be reporting to him – whose possible actions he likened to Nazi Germany.

Trump has been a major purveyor of fake news for years. He long claimed that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. He suggested that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of JFK. He claimed that he saw thousands of New Jersey residents celebrating 9/11. He justifies some of this on the grounds that “all I know is what’s on the internet”. But some of the fake news he promotes is stuff that he should know: such as what Donald Trump said about the Iraq War in 2003.

When he was just a clownish game show host, this didn’t really matter. Unlike the “journalists” who work at CNN, game show hosts are not governed by a structure of professional ethics about checking sources. But as Commander in Chief of the armed forces he should probably be a bit more circumspect. Making stuff up on the spot is not really appropriate behavior for a President Elect. It is actually much worse than the rather silly and harmless allegations that Buzzfeed published.

Trump and CNN distracted attention from the wholly inadequate withdrawal that the President Elect is making from his business. There’s going to be no blind trust. If someone threatens his business, he will know about it, and such a person could possible extort favors from him. If he is blackmailed, that’s how it will go. Trivial revelations of unusual sexual tastes won’t embarrass a man who discussed the size of his penis in a presidential debate.

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Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School. He is the author of Brandjack: How your reputation is at risk from brand pirates and what to do about it

 

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