Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

For weeks now, the nation's broadcasters have faced a moral dilemma every time President Donald Trump mounts the White House podium to deliver his "coronavirus briefing." While ordinary journalistic standards compel coverage of any president's remarks — especially during a national crisis — this president's relentless utterance of falsehoods, propaganda points and potentially deadly disinformation mocks those same standards.

Should media outlets meekly give Trump hours of free airtime to mislead and misinform their audiences? Can they cut short or even ignore his destructive rants without violating their own principles? When the president's speech poses a daily menace to human health and American democracy, how should responsible TV networks present him?


At CNN, the news producers try to resolve these difficult questions with assiduous fact-checking and commentary from reporters in the immediate wake of Trump's diatribes. It is a noble gesture toward accuracy and decency.

But White House officials recently threatened to withhold interviews with Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration's top pandemic experts, unless CNN stops interrupting the lengthy briefing coverage to correct Trump's lies. By blackmailing network producers with punishment, officials clearly aim to delay the fact-check until the briefing's conclusion — when most viewers have stopped watching.

Although the White House abandoned that scheme after CNN's Oliver Darcy exposed it, the ploy went well beyond the usual Trumpian bullying of the press. It was an obvious attempt to foist Trump 2020 campaign swill in the guise of vital information about the pandemic. Indeed, Trump's constant repetition of whoppers about his administration's handling of the pandemic, his promotion of untested medicines, his attacks of Democratic elected officials, his obnoxious treatment of conscientious reporters and his nauseous displays of narcissism have led some observers to urge the networks to stop televising the briefings.

The latest polling data suggest that Trump is doing himself more harm than good with these ludicrous and depressing performances. Anyway, for news organizations to ignore a daily presidential press briefing would represent an extraordinary, unwelcome departure from traditional values.

Yet there is a possible solution that would do far more to correct the record.

What if CNN, or any other honest broadcast outlet covering Trump's daily appearance, were to run a continuous fact-checking chyron under his squawking image in real time? Instead of waiting for the conclusion of his daily outpouring of mendacious bile, an electronic subtitle of truth could rectify his fabrications and delusions almost as soon as they emerge from his mouth.

Admittedly, a streaming instant-correction chyron would be a radical answer, especially in the eyes of media executives who all too often have rolled over for Trump during the past four years. But we are in the midst of an existential threat like we have never seen before, in a critical election year when those same executives know all too well what damage this president is doing to the nation. Insisting on facts and candor — in real time — would deliver a salutary shock to a numbed system.

Every major network has the capacity to provide live correction of Trump's lies. It should be fairly easy, in fact, because he repeats the same nonsense over and over again, from his claims about miracle drugs to his insistence that he predicted the pandemic. More than the capacity, however, they have an obligation to ensure that the truth reaches their endangered audiences alongside the perverted presidential messaging. At CNN, the producers and correspondents are seeking to fulfill that mission. This is merely a more effective way to do it.

Actually, news executives already know how to do this — because they've already done it many times. Banners correcting Trump misstatements have appeared beneath his image from time to time, dating back to the 2016 campaign. But the networks aren't using that technology now to consistently correct his lies during the coronavirus briefings.

The inventors of the original scrolling pixel banner named it after the powerful Chiron, a figure in Greek mythology revered as the wisest and most just of the centaurs. America needs news organizations that will highlight words of wisdom and justice as the antidote to deceit, wickedness and "fake news."

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has been claiming that COVID-19 has been mostly defeated in the U.S. — which is laughable in light of how much infection rates have been surging, especially in Sun Belt states. But according to Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, Team Trump has found a new coronavirus talking point: claiming that Americans can learn to live with the pandemic and the ever-climbing death count.

According to Abutaleb and Dawsey, the "goal" of Trump's White House and campaign allies "is to convince Americans that they can live with the virus — that schools should reopen, professional sports should return, a vaccine is likely to arrive by the end of the year, and the economy will continue to improve. White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day, according to three people familiar with the White House's thinking, who requested anonymity to reveal internal deliberations."

A Trump Administration senior official, quoted anonymously, told the Post that Americans will "live with the virus being a threat." And a former Trump official, according to the Post, said of Trump's allies, "They're of the belief that people will get over it, or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on — and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day."



Figures from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore show that the coronavirus pandemic continues to be quite deadly — especially in the United States. As of Monday morning, July 6, Hopkins was reporting a worldwide COVID-19 death count of more than 534,800 — and almost 130,000 of those deaths were in the U.S.

Biden's campaign has been asserting that the former vice president has a much better track record than Trump when it comes to pandemics. Democratic strategist and Biden campaign adviser Ariana Berengaut told the Post, "From really January on, Vice President Biden has been laser focused on the rising risk to the American people presented by this pandemic. You can almost imagine them side by side — Trump's leadership and Biden's leadership…. Trump has no plan for tomorrow, no plan for a week from now; so, there is absolutely no plan for the fall, and that's what encapsulates the whole arc of that contrast."

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, told the Post that Trump's coronavirus response has been and continues to be an abysmal failure.

Garin asserted, "Trump is increasingly defined in voters' minds by his failing response to the coronavirus crisis, and virtually every action and position he's taken have been wildly out of sync with where the public is at on what should be done. Biden now has a remarkable opportunity to contrast himself with this failure of leadership that a large majority of voters see so clearly."