Ever since Donald Trump was elected president there has been a debate over whether his frequently absurd comments were the result of his shameless dishonesty or his evident psychological degradation. Of course these are not mutually exclusive explanations for why Trump so flagrantly espouses known lies and insane conspiracy theories.
In addition to diagnoses that Trump is a pathological liar, he exhibits clear signs of senility. But sometimes his ludicrous remarks are simply purposeful attempts create alternative realities that defy logic and serve no purpose other than to foster confusion and diversion. And if they’re also insulting, he probably thinks he’s hit the jackpot.
On Saturday morning Trump demonstrated this talent he has for irrational outbursts with a tweet attacking his media nemesis, the “failing” New York Times. He was lashing out about reporting on his embarrassing flips and flops with regard to whether he will meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un:
The Failing @nytimes quotes “a senior White House official,” who doesn’t exist, as saying “even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
This may be one of the most unarguably deranged tweets Trump has posted to date. The “senior White House official” Trump is denying exists was Matt Pottinger who serves on the National Security Council (as reported by Yasher Ali). Pottinger actually said precisely what Trump is denying to a roomful of reporters with many more listening on a conference call. It was a background briefing that was authorized by the White House and was also attended by Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shaj.
In other words, the statement asserting that it would be impossible to hold the meeting on June 12 was an official White House communication by those responsible for that information. So Trump’s tweet is saying that his own spokespeople don’t exist. He literally said that they are not real people. Donald Trump is calling his own press staffers and national security advisors fake news.
Let that sink in. It’s one thing to falsely claim, as Trump does almost daily, that actual news that he doesn’t like is fake just because he doesn’t like it. He even does this to reporters he personally calls to “leak” information that he thinks he will benefit from. But it’s another thing entirely to send his staffers out to talk to reporters in the White House and then later deny whatever it was that he told them to say.
If Trump is going to refute his own official pronouncements from his own designated spokespeople, then the press has no responsibility honor any agreements with regard to those comments being off the record or on background. If a reporter publishes a statement from an anonymous source who lied to the reporter, the reporter is ethically permitted to reveal the identity of the source. And likewise, Trump cannot authorize statements to the media and then castigate the media for reporting what he said. The fact that he does this is proof that he doesn’t respect the press (obviously) or even the principle of truthfulness. And the press should approach everything he says, or whatever comes out of his administration, with the skepticism that his record of brazen dishonesty warrants.
UPDATE: There’s audio of Pottinger saying exactly what the press reported he said – and what Trump said was fake news:
4. I've obtained audio of the WH press briefing. You can hear Raj Shah, Deputy Press Secretary, introduce Pottinger (along with the terms – which are standard) and then Pottinger makes the statement that POTUS says was never made. Lots of reporters in briefing room and on phone. pic.twitter.com/2gEYkRSyTv
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) May 26, 2018