WASHINGTON ― Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker said his newspaper would not refer to false statements from the Trump administration as “lies,” because doing so would ascribe a “moral intent” to the statements.
Baker appeared on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday, where he described some of President-elect Donald Trump’s falsehoods as “questionable” and “challengeable.” But, he said, “I’d be careful about using the word ‘lie.’ ‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”
He said reporters should state the facts, but leave classifying them to readers, citing the example of Trump’s claim that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating on 9/11 (which is false).
“I think it’s then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, ‘This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don’t think that’s true.’”
The New York Times editorial board has used “lie” to describe Trump’s rampant abuse of facts. And Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin has taken the media to task for not using the word. Other outlets ― including MSNBC, New York Magazine and HuffPost ― will use the word when it’s merited.
But Baker said that in doing so, “you run the risk that you look like you are, you’re not being, objective.”
Baker also suggested that Trump is being treated differently than other politicians. “This is happening all the time now, people are looking at what Donald Trump’s saying and saying, ‘This is false, it’s a false claim.’ I think people are saying, ‘You know what, Hillary Clinton said a lot things that were false.’ I don’t remember the press being quite so concerned about saying she lied in headlines and stories like that.”