Fol­low Chris Wal­lace: Bat­tle pres­i­dent’s lies armed with truth

The Record (Troy, NY) - - OPINION - Bar­bara Lom­bardo is the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of The Sarato­gian, The Record and the Com­mu­nity News. Her blog is www. donewith­dead­

No mat­ter what Pres­i­dent Trump told the na­tion about im­mi­gra­tion in his prime-time pub­lic ad­dress, it will be up to na­tional jour­nal­ists to re­port not merely what he says, but what is true.

This past week­end, Chris Wal­lace — an an­chor, com­men­ta­tor and re­spected vet­eran jour­nal­ist — showed how it’s done.

On his “Fox News Sun­day,” Wal­lace po­litely but firmly re­but­ted White House Press Sec­re­tary Sarah Sanders’ false­hoods – with facts. She talked about nearly 4,000 peo­ple on sus­pected ter­ror­ism lists be­ing stopped by bor­der or cus­toms peo­ple, stat­ing “we know that our most vul­ner­a­ble point of en­try is the south­ern bor­der.

Wal­lace was ready. The over­whelm­ing num­ber of those stops were at air­ports, he said. Not the bor­der. Most of those stopped were merely from coun­tries that have had ter­ror­ists. “And the State De­part­ment says that there is, quote, their words: no cred­i­ble ev­i­dence of any ter­ror­ist com­ing across the bor­der from Mex­ico,” Wal- lace said.

More facts on the topic came this af­ter­noon when NBC re­ported that for the first half of 2018 (the lat­est in­for­ma­tion avail­able), a to­tal of six im­mi­grants – count ‘em, 6 – were stopped on the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der be­cause their names were on the ter­ror­ism data­base. Six. The num­ber ar­rested on ter­ror­ism-re­lated charges: Zero.

The wide­spread re­port­ing of Sun­day’s Wal­lace-Sanders ex­change il­lus­trates how re­gret­tably rare it is for a news per­son to knock down per­sis­tent un­truths. It also il­lus­trates the un­nerv­ing bold­ness of the pro­pa­gan­dists. Sanders barely skipped a beat, still dis­count­ing the truth even when faced with facts.

So what’s to be done? It takes time and ef­fort to gather, an­a­lyze and re­port in­for­ma­tion. It takes a com­mit­ment by news or­ga­ni­za­tions to dig, dig, dig and re­lent­lessly ham­mer away with facts.

Ac­cess helps, too. Wal­lace had the ad­van­tage of a sit- down, face-to-face con­ver­sa­tion with Sanders. A re­porter can’t re­tort when they are re­duced to shout­ing ques­tions out­side a he­li­copter, or pre­vented at press brief­ings from ask­ing ques­tions, never mind fol­low-ups. That said, news an­chors and hosts, es­pe­cially on cable, squan­der op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­fute lies and mis­in­for­ma­tion that are so au­thor­i­ta­tively re­peated by the pres­i­dent and his spokes­peo­ple.

News peo­ple should not in­ject their opin­ions; do­ing so is a dis­ser­vice that hurts the cred­i­bil­ity of jour­nal­ism. But it is a jour­nal­ist’s duty to dis­tin­guish be­tween truth and fic­tion, and to hold those in power ac­count­able. I find it painful when Kellyanne Con­way, Sarah Sanders, Rudy Gi­u­liani and their co­horts are al­lowed to hi­jack pur­ported in­ter­views by so­called jour­nal­ists who are un­pre­pared, un­able or un- will­ing to counter their fab­ri­ca­tions.

Truth will out (as Wil­liam Shake­speare liked to write) – only if peo­ple ( jour­nal­ists, politi­cians, var­i­ous ex­perts, com­mu­nity lead­ers, pas­tors, any­one with a con­science) are armed with facts and re­peat them at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to de­flate and ul­ti­mately de­feat the pres­i­dent’s ma­li­cious mis­in­for­ma­tion, fear-mon­ger­ing and brazen lies.

Bar­bara Lom­bardo

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