“Alternative facts” became a mainstream entity almost as soon as President Donald Trump set foot in the White House following his inauguration. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, in a press conference the day after the inauguration, spent his time fact-checking the press. Spicer maintained that the press had reported false, drastically low, figures for attendance at Trump’s inauguration.
Spicer claimed Trump’s speech drew “the largest audience to ever see an inauguration.” Yet, numerous experts have proven Trump’s crowd came in around 500,000 people, falling significantly short of Trump’s estimate of one million. Neither Spencer, nor Trump, retracted this absurd claim.
Trump and his administration continued their barrage of “alternative facts” as their focus switched to voter fraud, which Trump claimed greatly impacted the November election with anywhere from 3 million to 5 million illegal votes cast.
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Again, this was almost instantaneously proven to be false by multiple sources. There is no evidence voter fraud of that magnitude occurred in the 2016 presidential election. Furthermore, there is no evidence voter fraud had any effect on the outcome of the presidential election.
The latest, and perhaps greatest, example of the Trump administration’s willingness to spread blatant lies is Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green massacre” fiasco. While Conway has received flack for citing a completely fake incident in an Feb. 3 interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball” to justify Trump’s executive order on immigration, this is not the first time Conway has cited this fake massacre.
On Jan. 29, Conway mentioned her favorite “massacre” in an interview with TMZ, and again several days later in an interview with Cosmopolitan, both times to justify Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven different countries, as well as indefinitely suspending immigration from Syria and all immigration to the U.S. for 120 days. Conway tried to justify banning refugees under the guise they had been the mastermind behind terrorist attacks such as the fake Bowling Green massacre.
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Conway further claimed that, following the Bowling Green massacre, then-President Barack Obama called for a six-month ban on immigration from Iraq, where the two men involved in the massacre were from.
But no matter how many times Conway refers to her Bowling Green massacre, she cannot wish it into being. Not a single person died or was even wounded.
What really happened is as follows: two Iraqi men in Bowling Green were arrested in 2011 for selling weapons to terrorist group al-Qaeda. The real facts do not merit Conway so flippantly throwing the word “massacre” around. Furthermore, this incident did not prompt the Obama administration to institute a six-month ban on immigrants from Iraq — just to impose a stricter vetting process on Iraqis who had just arrived in the U.S.
Of course not everything on the internet is true. This is a basic rule children learn at a young age. But in an era where lies are too easily thrown around and relabeled as facts, by the president of the United States and supposed leader of the free world, how can one decipher what can and cannot be believed?
Certainly, the majority of what the Trump administration spews from their podium should be taken with a large grain of salt. Less than a month into this administration, Spicer, Conway and Trump have all taken some severe blows to their credibility. That is, if they even had any to start with.
They have lied about everything from their executive order on immigration favoring Christians to the weather during Trump’s inauguration speech, and have criticized any news outlet who dares to call them out when they spot the many discrepancies.
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The Trump administration has gone so far as to target certain news publications, including The New York Times, one of the leading publications in the country, saying they “don’t write good.” In what seems like an act of middle school pettiness and drama, Trump even insists on referring to them as “the failing New York Times.” In essence, Trump and his cronies have taken to viciously condemning any and all news organizations that publish stories they deem as unfavorable to their image, even when these stories are substantiated by verified facts. When called on their lies, they have adapted a policy of “deny, deny deny” before quickly moving on to the next one.
This makes news consumption for the general public more difficult. On one hand, you have the president calling verified facts false, and working to maintain his facade of a competent administration. But on the other, you have reputable news organizations and journalists refuting Trump’s claims and maintaining the validity of their articles. Citizens should be able to look toward the White House as a source of relative truth, especially regarding their own decisions. With Trump’s administration, however, that is not the case.
Instead, news outlets need to take on a larger role in making the public aware not only of the news but of the discrepancies between what is actually happening and the lies Trump is spreading. Journalists cannot shy away from publishing inflammatory pieces about the president or about his staff because if they don’t draw attention to errors made, no one will.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.