With the exception of Anthony S. Fauci, and maybe a few other top medical experts, there isn’t a trusted truth-teller in sight.
“Donald Trump’s way of dealing with negative news is consistent: Hide it, spin it, and always lie about it,” said Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and now a Bloomberg Opinion columnist who was once sued, unsuccessfully, by the then-developer.
This moment, O’Brien told me, doesn’t promise to be any different despite the incredibly high stakes for national security as our allies and adversaries assess what’s happening and act accordingly, as markets react, and as more lives are threatened by exposure to the disease.
It’s no secret that a culture of lies permeates the White House. There has been a parade of press secretaries with a remarkably consistent record of failing to tell the truth to reporters and the general public. It started on the very first day of the Trump administration, when Sean Spicer lied by insisting falsely, at the president’s behest, that his inaugural crowd was the largest of all time.
That kind of dissembling is still happening on press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s watch. At a briefing Thursday, Fox News Radio White House correspondent Jon Decker pressed her to provide details about Trump’s public claim that voters’ mail-in ballots had been “dumped in rivers.”
Where’s the river, Decker wanted to know and who is the “they” who found them there?
McEnany responded in her usual cocksure manner: “Local authorities. It was a ditch in Wisconsin.” She provided no other specifics, and let’s be clear: This is a hyperbolic tale meant to further voter mistrust in the integrity of the election.
This is the same press secretary who promised at the start of her tenure last spring that she would never lie to the press — and then immediately began to spread untruths.
The problem, to put it mildly, is widespread among administration officials. But it starts at the top with Trump himself who lies so relentlessly. As The Post’s Glenn Kessler put it in his introduction to the book, “Donald Trump and the His Assault on Truth”: “The pace and frequency of Trump’s falsehoods can feel mind-numbing — and many Americans appear to have tuned out.”
In this latest crisis, the predictable cycle of dangerous obfuscation has already begun. It was only after Bloomberg News reported that Trump aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for coronavirus that the White House acknowledged it.
Would we even know about Trump’s diagnosis if it weren’t for that? Maybe not. What about those he has come in contact with in recent days? Would they know they were endangered? The indications aren’t good. Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS White House correspondent, reported Friday that there was “no contact from the Trump campaign or the White House to alert the Biden campaign of possible exposure.” The campaign learned of the situation from news reports.
And when it comes to Trump’s health, he and his minions have a history of dubious statements. His former personal