President Donald Trump reminds veteran Bluegrass State journalist Bill Straub of an old Kentucky expression.

He’d rather climb up a tree and tell a lie,
than stand on the ground and tell the truth.

– Old Kentucky proverb

Straub ran The Kentucky Post’s Frankfort bureau before becoming Washington correspondent for the Kentucky and Cincinnati Posts. He retired as White House and political correspondent for Scripps-Howard News Service.

Trump: the Great Prevaricator

“I’ve never seen a politician who lies so brazenly [as Trump],” said Straub, who’s in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

Straub lives in Silver Spring, Md. But he keeps tabs on Kentucky and national politics. He writes a liberal-leaning political column for Kentucky Forward and the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

Straub understands the frustrations of reporters trying to cover a president who, according to The Washington Post, had made 7,645 “false or misleading claims” through Dec. 30.

That dizzying total also puts Straub in mind of a quip attributed to Mark Twain:

A lie can travel around the world
while the truth is still putting its shoes on.

– Mark Twain

“This is a perfect example of all that’s going on,” he said.

Straub also said that Trump makes it harder for journalists to track down and expose his lies because “floods the zone. He lies so much that it’s almost impossible to refute every single lie he tells.”

He said Trump, too, buries reporters under an avalanche of figures as if they’re all true. “Reporters are usually pretty smart about what’s going on. But they don’t have every fact at their fingertips.” Hence, by the time fact-checkers prove Trump’s figures are wrong, “what he said is already out there.”

Trump: the Panjandrum of Porky Pies

Stephen Grosz is a psychoanalyst who studies liars and lying. “We all lie, but we don’t lie like President Trump,” the British Financial Times online quoted Grosz, an American who wrote The Examined Life. “He is the most extravagant, reckless, inexhaustible fibber of our era — the panjandrum of porky pies.” (A “panjandrum” is a purported authority. A “porky pie” is Cockney rhyming slang for for a lie.)

We all lie, but we don’t lie like President Trump. He is the most extravagant, reckless, inexhaustible fibber of our era — the panjandrum of porky pies. (Stephen Grosz)Click To Tweet

Trump: a dilemma for the media

Trump’s dissembling has forced the media into “an epistemic crisis: how to publish the president’s commentary without amplifying his fabrications and conspiracy theories,” Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic. “The unavoidable reality is that even good behavior by the news media is not sufficient to contain Trump’s serial mendacity. Depressing as it may be to say, the lies will get out.

“It’s not only because Trump has more followers on Twitter (56 million) than any news organization in the world. And it’s not only because Fox News (whose prime-time stars perform the duties of White House press secretary) averages  more total viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.

“It’s because the communications revolution in technology has created a cluster of information clearinghouses—Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and even far-right cult sites such as Gab—where sensational and emotional exaggerations often travel farther and wider than honest reporting and dutiful fact-checking.”

“Why do you lie so much?”

Bill Straub wishes some reporter would ask Trump flat-out, “‘Why do you lie so much?’

“But what’s the result going to be? He’s just going to deny that he lies.

I think he just babbles. Something pops into his brain he thinks will sound good and he goes ahead and says it whether it’s true or not.

“And then you look at the polls and more than 4 out of 10 people still think he’s doing a great job. I just don’t get it. He might get reelected. I’m aghast at the whole thing.”

–30–

Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.