The truth is a comfort and an ally, but it can’t always protect you because the truth also has enemies.
A press secretary will spend a weekend criticizing the Wall Street Journal because she swears a recording of an interview shows that the president she works for said “I’d have” rather than “I have” when referring to his good relationship with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. She raves on as though her claims prove a credible story is fake news. President Donald Trump appeared to say “I have,” but even if he meant to say or did say “I’d have,” it was a complete lie either way.
The president doesn’t have a good relationship with the leader of North Korea, nor will he. The president has called Kim Jong Un “Rocketman” and has tweeted that he is short and fat.
Whether the president spoke a contraction or not, the meaning of his comment was a lie.
It wasn’t fake news. It never is with this administration.
The enemy of truth is the person caught in its snare. Those who shout the loudest often have the most to hide.
It isn’t pleasant to report that the leader of the free world has told more than 2,000 verifiable lies in one year in office.
It is decidedly unpleasant. That is why the president, and those he surrounds himself with, try to discredit the truth tellers. The truth is a threat to a liar.
That became abundantly clear during the administration of Richard Nixon. During his tenure, his lies and the compilation of the lies of those who came before him were uncovered. Only one group has the ability to speak truth to power when every level of the government is involved in telling the lie or covering it up.
That group is the press. That is why the news media is called The Fourth Estate.
Some stories bring excitement. Others bring fear. Some stories shake the very ground upon which you stand.
Some stories make you want to dig deeply and reveal every happy detail. There are some facts you want to ignore so that you don’t become the messenger people want to kill.
In every case, the only security comes when you cling to the truth.
“The Post” is a new Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks movie released in theaters this weekend. It shines a light on how newspapers – specifically the Washington Post - fought a corrupt administration and won. For decades, the military and executive branch of the government had been violating the law and putting lives unnecessarily at risk. When a top-secret government study was discovered and published, it led to the end of a war and eventually the end of the Richard Nixon administration.
The movie appropriately highlights the courage of Kay Graham – publisher of The Washington Post – who made the financially and personally risky decision to publish stories that the government wanted to keep secret.
Graham said her husband Phil coined the phrase that, “The newspaper is the first rough draft of history.”
That is accurate in so many ways. Newspapers are the first to write a story. But there are also times when that rough draft isn’t 100 percent accurate and additional facts are added to the official record in following days.
“We don’t always get it right. We’re not always perfect,” Graham says to editor Ben Bradlee near the end of the movie. “But I think if we can just keep on it, you know? That’s the job, isn’t it?”
That is the job.
You have to do everything you can to be as right as possible every day. In today’s world, that means withstanding howls of fake news and intentional attacks meant to discredit those who are pointing out collusion, emoluments, lies and failure to release tax returns and other documents that every administration has released in the past.
It didn’t seem like “The Post” was taking direct shots at the current administration. The script was sold before the 2016 election when most people still expected Hillary Clinton to win. However, the obvious similarities between the Trump and Nixon administrations are hard to overlook.
Despite the many challenges the news industry faces in 2018, Like Graham said many years ago, all we can do is just keep on it. That’s the job and we have to do it.