David Zurawik

Zurawik: Let's just assume Trump's always lying and fact check him backward

Shifty eyes? This photo taken on October 25, 2017 shows President Donald Trump dismissing indictments against three campaign aides -- including Paul Manafort who was convicted last week on eight counts in his indictment.

“So many lies, so little time.”

That was the headline on a segment on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday that looked at ways to cover President’s Trump constant lies.


The panel featured CNN’s Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan and me.

When host Brian Stelter got to me, I said that after more than 18 months of Talmudic wrestling over whether or not we can call Trump a liar, I am done with it. He’s a liar period — the worst to have ever inhabited the White House, and that’s saying something in the wake of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.


“We should just start from that premise — he's a liar,” I said. “If you can prove he's not telling a lie, great. We should fact check him backwards, maybe, see if anything he's telling us is true.”

That part of the discussion came in response to a column I wrote last week for The Sun on how trying to write about Trump has challenged my core beliefs as a journalist and brought me to the point where I am questioning whether the legacy journalism values I cherish are serving citizens and journalists as they should with someone as profoundly dishonest and craven as Trump.

Bernstein called for historical perspective on Trump as a presidential liar.

“A think a historical examination of presidential lying, truth telling would be so revealing, because then we would see how Donald Trump, even up against the criminality of Richard Nixon and lying of Richard Nixon, is in a league totally by himself,” Berstein said.

Sullivan pointed out how Trump has used lies in a larger almost metaphysical sense to “undermine the truth, undermine factuality and, in some sense, to undermine democracy and the role of the press.”

Here’s another take on the segment from Mediaite.

Sullivan and I appeared in another segment talking about the role of the National Enquirer and its CEO, David Pecker, in helping Trump get elected. Pecker, who has been granted immunity, is expected to testify about his publication buying negative articles about Trump and then not publishing them, a practice known as “catch and kill.”

We also discussed Pecker allegedly granting Trump approval on Enquirer covers viciously attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in months leading up to the 2016 election.


Sullivan noted how millions saw those covers each week as they waited in checkout lines at grocery stores — making the Enquirer a powerful part of Trump’s messaging machine.

“I don’t know what circle of hell he (Trump) goes to to get these people he surrounds himself with like Pecker,” I said, predicting it could get ugly for Trump if the Enquirer’s CEO starts singing to save himself.