Politics: Actors and ‘lies’


Gary Abernathy - gabernathy@civitasmedia.com



A little of this and that today…

Celebrities revisited

A column I wrote a couple of weeks ago about celebrities expressing political opinions got a lot of feedback, including from other parts of Ohio, since several newspapers in our Civitas family of publications around Ohio regularly carry this column. Several responses accused me of generalizing in an unfair way about actors, and I was no doubt guilty of that.

Stormi Bledsoe, formerly with the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and now a student of acting at Northern Kentucky University, wrote a response which we published as a guest column and which I thought represented a good counterpoint. She made the point that people working in the performance arts are often extremely accomplished people. Several other readers, both locally and elsewhere, made a point along the lines of, “I’ll bet you don’t complain when a conservative actor speaks up.”

True. But conservatives in Hollywood are so outnumbered that the comparison hardly seems fair. The Oscars will be coming up on Feb. 26, but you know it will be three hours of Trump bashing, so while I love movies and would enjoy watching, I won’t put myself through the misery.

But instead of suggesting that celebrities should never express their political views, as I did, perhaps a more reasonable position would be to suggest that they should spare us their opinions at awards shows. Let them show up at political rallies, make commercials, voice their opinions in any number of forums, but keep the awards shows focused on the subject at hand and resist spouting off during those programs. Then everyone of all political persuasions could watch and enjoy. Isn’t that a reasonable request?

Big Media and ‘lies’

Also receiving a good bit of feedback was a recent column about President Trump’s relationship with the media. I was particularly struck by a note from a reader from Plain City who emailed me and said, “I don’t usually write to columnists but your article on Trump and the media doesn’t mention the real issue with the man and the media. He’s a liar, and rather than stop lying, he blames ‘media’ for pointing out his lies.”

While it’s everyone’s right to determine for themselves whether a politician is lying, the note reminded me of how sad it is that many media organizations, including The Associated Press and The New York Times, have adopted a policy now of labeling certain assertions by Trump as “lies.” No longer do they feel the need to find someone else to quote that Trump is, in their opinion, lying. No, now they simply imbed such pronouncements within the context of their reporting.

An example from the lead paragraph of an AP story on Jan. 24: “Even as President Donald Trump starts reaching out to lawmakers and business and union leaders to sell his policies, he’s still making false claims about election fraud.”

That wasn’t an opinion piece, it was a straight news story. The AP writer, under new AP policy, simply decided to call Trump’s assertions about election fraud “false claims.” It used to be, a few weeks ago and for decades prior, the AP would have had to find someone to quote who would call Trump’s claims false.

Same with The New York Times which, covering the same story, ran a front page headline that declared, “Meeting With Top Lawmakers, Trump Repeats an Election Lie.” Again, that was a front page headline on a news story, not an opinion piece.

Whether you think Donald Trump is the breath of fresh air and the “drain the swamp” reformer we’ve needed for years, or the world’s biggest con artist and a habitual liar, is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is the decision by Big Media to declare itself the omnipotent reservoir of fact and truth. It is not. There are millions of Americans who agree with Trump that election fraud is rampant, particularly in California and New York. It is an opinion, not a lie.

If Trump or anyone else said something like, “The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1938,” or “The New Jersey Nets won the NBA Finals last year,” those obvious falsehoods could be labeled as lies. But the decision by The Associated Press and The New York Times to start using the word “lie” on issues like the extent of election fraud, or the size of an inauguration crowd, or the cause of climate change or other issues up for debate is troubling.

Of course, it’s a standard Big Media has decided to use beginning with Trump, not with Obama, who clearly lied when he said that patients could keep their health care plan, or that the Pentagon had not presented him with a plan to defeat Isis, or that lobbyists would not work in his White House, and countless other statements later proven to be false.

Big Media never used the word “lie” in a news story to describe something Obama said, at least not without quoting an independent source as saying he lied. It’s disturbing, but it’s another clear indicator of Big Media’s double standard, and why the Trump White House appropriately identifies such news organizations as the opposition.

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Gary Abernathy

gabernathy@civitasmedia.com

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at gabernathy@civitasmedia.com.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at gabernathy@civitasmedia.com.