Having given Sarah Huckabee Sanders a role as his Press Secretary, President Donald Trump did the Huckabee family another favor this weekend by granting her father, Mike, an interview on the latter’s new Saturday-night chat show. A grateful Huckabee responded with a questioning style which might charitably be defined as “gentle,” or more accurately as “sycophantic”.
In true Frost/Nixon style, the veteran of two unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination floored the commander-in-chief with a devastating opener: “Tell me, how good is your Press Secretary?” An honest answer here may have offended a protective father, so the President replied with his usual cavalcade of superlatives and moved on. And it was what he said in the process of that moving on that will be the headline of Trump’s latest softball interview with a sympathetic platform — on this occasion, Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Among other claims that ranged from the inaccurate to the indecipherable, the President’s most interesting statement was one that was merely improbable — that he invented the term “fake.” Castigating the media for what he deems to be its unfair coverage of his administration, Trump said as follows.
“I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with was ‘fake’. I guess other people have used it, perhaps, over the years, but I’ve never noticed it.”
Even allowing, perhaps generously, for the suggestion that the president actually meant he had invented the term “Fake News,” this is still a bizarre claim. That term was frequently used as a blanket description of shady, unsourced news sites that popped up with regularity on Facebook during the 2016 Presidential Election claiming among other things that the Pope had endorsed Trump’s campaign — he hadn’t — and that anti-Trump protesters were being paid $3,500 per protest — they weren’t. The gusto with which the President has taken to using this term is, merely, an indication that he repeats, parrot-fashion, terms he has recently heard which he believes make him sound educated.
Among his other surprising claims during an interview that went on for twenty-seven jaw-dropping minutes, Trump also stated that San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was “the lone voice of criticism” of Presidential efforts to provide hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. He accused Iran of funding North Korea and doing other things with the insular state that were “totally inappropriate” — a statement he failed to clarify. He also made a bizarre defense of his failures to navigate any kind of healthcare reform through Congress by saying “I want to focus on North Korea. I want to focus on Iran.” Maybe he had forgotten that at his inauguration speech in January, he repeatedly used the phrase “America first,” or maybe he knew that his interrogator wouldn’t pursue the point.
It’s fair, though, to say that the President did not forget all of his previous statements, as he returned to a favorite talking point from the election campaign. Once again, Trump suggested that the so-called Islamic State terror group was created by former President Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal causing a vacuum in Iraq in 2011. The group has origins as far back as 1999 and adopted its present name in 2006, a full three years before Obama took office. Oddly, Huckabee again nodded through the current president’s objectively false statement, as he did with the claim that the U.S. is the “highest-taxed nation in the world” — which it is not.
As an ending to a week in which the incumbent president claimed that NBC News is “more fake than CNN” for their claims that current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to him as a “moron” — a statement which Tillerson notably failed to entirely deny — this interview will in all likelihood merely join the steepling pile of other outlandish claims by the President and the tacit support given to them by a compliant media. But taken in isolation it’s a salutary lesson in how, when false statements go unchallenged, they can easily become facts in the minds of the uncritical.
[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]