The media shouldn't call President-elect Donald Trump a "liar," according to a columnist of The Washington Post.
"I agree with The Wall Street Journal's Gerard Baker," wrote Barton Swaim, author of "The Speechwriter: A Brief Eduction in Politics."
Baker's "comments on 'Meet the Press' last week started the brawl, that the word "lie" and its cognates should be applied to public officials with extreme caution. Inasmuch as it is a reporter's job to give readers only verifiable truth, and the word lie implies the often unknowable component of motive, it's best left out of the discussion . . ."
During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," moderator Chuck Todd asked Baker if he would feel comfortable if the Journal characterized something Trump said as a "lie."
"I'd be careful about using the word 'lie,'" he said. "'Lie' implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead."
Swaim suggests following Congress' lead. The Senate does not allow any senator to "directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator" during a debate.
"The key word is 'motive,'" Swaim wrote. "To call someone a liar is not to say he spoke an untruth. It's to say he did it willingly."
He then cites Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who shouted "You lie" at President Barack Obama during a 2009 speech the president was giving before Congress. Wilson was censured by the House in response.
"Of course, journalists and Trump aren't peers on a parliamentary body, and the word 'lie' has become synonymous in our political discourse with 'a statement I don't like,'" Swaim concluded. "Everything's a 'lie' these days. A politician or a commentator can hardly utter a semi-controversial remark without someone — not just a Facebook troll but a respectable political adversary, speaking on cable TV — calling him a liar or suggesting that he's deliberately misleading the masses.
"Maybe Trump's a liar. I'm not prepared to say he's not a liar. But that word can get away from you if you're not careful."
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