People, please: Can we stop pretending there’s any point to fact-checking Donald Trump’s increasingly buffoonish birther claims? He wants us to debunk them, preferably as loudly as possible. This gives him exactly what he wants: Enhanced credibility among the subset of Americans who think it’s a badge of honor to be called out for brave truth-telling by the mainstream media outlets who are conspiring to cover up the truth about Barack Obama’s illegitimacy as president.
Which gives rise to the Trump conundrum: Is there really any point in factchecking someone who trafficks in falsehoods in order to get attention?
Case in point: Trump has now indulged in a new exercise in misdirection, this one about in-house Post fact-checker extraordinaire Glenn Kessler, that’s really quite astonishing in its audacity.
Here’s what happened. Two days ago, Kessler published a piece in the Post debunking Trump’s recent claim that Obama has spent $2 million to cover up his birth certificate. Kessler awarded Trump four Pinnochios.
The New York Observer then confronted Trump with Kessler’s demolition job. Trump responded by saying the Post should have called him for his side of the story.
But in the original Post piece, Trump was actually quoted! After the Post contacted Trump for comment, his office emailed the Post a statement from Trump himself that said:
“It is well known in legal circles that this is the kind of time they are spending on the issue. Isn’t it a shame when all he has to do is produce his birth certificate, which he has not done.”
I know Trump is a very busy man, and perhaps he forgot what he said two days ago. But look, the man trafficks in falsehoods for sport. Being cavalier with the truth is an integral part of the circus act, and even more crucially, getting called out for it is an integral part of the act, too.
This isn’t at all a knock on Kessler, whose daily fact-checks have become a must read. But really, given the internal logic, or lack thereof, that defines the self-contained media twighlight zone that Trump has created for himself, what’s the point in even bothering with quaint niceties like fact-checking? That’s what he wants us to do.
UPDATE: Post edited slightly from original.