What’s new and dangerous in Corey Lewandowski’s open embrace of lying
On the cusp of announcing whether he will run for the Senate in 2020, Corey Lewandowski is openly embracing his common practice of lying to the media — wearing it as a sort of badge of honor as he prepares to court Republican primary voters in New Hampshire.
“I have no obligation to be honest with the media,” Lewandowski said with a straight face when, under questioning, he was forced to admit that when he had told MSNBC in February that he didn’t recall ever having a conversation with President Donald Trump about the possible un-recusal of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the special counsel probe into Russian interference. The Mueller report made clear that Lewandowski had, in fact, had that conversation with Trump on at least two occasions.
On Wednesday morning, Lewandowski doubled down on that idea in an interview with CNN’s “New Day”: “I’m as honest as I can be, as often as I can,” Lewandowski said.
Which, well, hell.
There’s no question that Trump has redefined the idea of how much or how little a politician has to tell the truth. While all politicians — prior to Trump — told some fibs that a) generally kept them to a minimum and b) if called out on the mischaracterization or exaggeration by the media, they backed off.
Not so with Trump. Not only has he said more than 12,000 false or misleading things since coming into office, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, but he has also repeated some of those false claims dozens and dozens of times. (Trump has wrongly claimed that the southern border wall is being built more than 190 times.) He simply bulls his way past the truth — and those seeking to enforce it. The truth, in Trump’s mind, is whatever he says it is.
“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump told an audience in 2018. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
What Lewandowski, a Trump acolyte and always the most loyal soldier in the President’s political army, is doing is actually taking the Trump theory of truth a step further. Where Trump seems content to simply work to erode confidence in the media’s ability to tell the truth (“Fake news” and all that), Lewandowski is actively celebrating his lack of truthfulness with the media as evidence of just how hardcore Trump he actually is.
“What I’m saying is, they have been inaccurate on many occasions and perhaps I was inaccurate that time,” Lewandowski told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The logic behind that statement goes like this: The media gets stuff wrong so I am perfectly within my rights to purposely obfuscate or even lie to the media. It’s just giving them a taste of their own medicine!
The fundamental flaws in that logic are myriad.
First and foremost, we teach our children that lying or willfully misrepresenting things is wrong and should never be done. If it’s good enough to teach our kids, we should be able to follow it too.
Second, Lewandowski is comparing apples to oranges. Yes, the media get things wrong from time to time. As any entity populated by fallible humans will do. But, those errors are — 99.9% of the time — honest mistakes, not willful attempts to mislead the public. And there is a long-held practice in the media that when you get something wrong a) you correct it publicly and b) if it’s a big enough thing, people lose their jobs. It’s called accountability.
What Lewandowski is doing when he knowingly lies to the media bears zero resemblance to that accountability idea. He is purposely not telling the truth to benefit himself and his own political interests. And he isn’t ever apologizing for getting it wrong. He’s reveling in it.
Trump allies (and Lewandowski supporters) will cast all of this as the media being mad when Lewandowski dunks on them. Which is dumb. Because, consider this: When Lewandwoski lies to the media, the media broadcasts those lies to the public. So, in the process of lying to journalists, Lewandowski is lying to the public. Which is a pretty big self own.