Defending Donald Trump with logic and facts is impossible. So twisted and indefensible are his positions, utterances and flat-out lies that flacking for the man calls on a mix of deception, deflection and extreme skill. Some folks, like CNN’s Jeffrey Lord, manage this task through the creative use of history.
Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, meanwhile, keeps saying the same thing, as if repetition were a way station to truth.
To wit: Yesterday the New York Times broke the news that recently departed Fox News chief Roger Ailes was “advising Donald J. Trump in preparation for the all-important presidential debates this fall.” The story mentioned that it was unclear whether Ailes was being paid and carried comments from Trump himself that Ailes had “no role” and that this was nothing “formal.”
Fair enough, but there was no refutation that Ailes was advising Trump on debate prep.
This morning on CNN, Carol Costello asked Pierson to respond to this matter. “How can Roger Ailes’s advice possibly help him?” Costello said.
Let the refutation roll! “First, that reporting is also false,” said Pierson, who recently made headlines with her statement that President Obama had invaded Afghanistan. “Roger Ailes does not have any role, formal or informal, with the campaign or with the debate process. As mentioned before, they have been friends for a very long time, but he has no role in this.”
Costello was wise to that evasion. She restated the reporting — that Ailes is “offering Donald Trump advice on his debate performance.”
At that point, Pierson essentially admitted that she has no authority to be delivering talking points on this matter: “I don’t know what they’re talking about in private conversations,” she said. We’ll repeat that talking point for the sake of emphasis: “I don’t know what they’re talking about in private conversations.” Then she went back to talking points: “But he’s definitely not playing a role, formal or informal, in the campaign. There’s a lot of people that give Donald Trump advice, but that doesn’t mean they’re part of the campaign.”
If Pierson doesn’t know what Ailes and Trump are discussing in their conversations, how can she possibly assert that Ailes is playing no “informal” role in the campaign?
As the segment with Costello drew to an end, Pierson repeated the ridiculousness: “This is being reported that somehow Roger Ailes was part of the official campaign team and he’s not,” said Pierson. Sure: Somewhere — perhaps on Twitter or Facebook or something — someone has “reported” that Ailes has acceded to the “official campaign team” of Trump. But the original breaking news merely stated that the disgraced former Fox News chief — who lost his job amid a sexual harassment scandal — was advising the Republican presidential nominee. And that’s all.
The CNN segment was pegged to a move by the Trump campaign to name Breitbart executive Steve Bannon as its chief executive and pollster Kellyanne Conway as its campaign manager. CNN is calling those moves a “major staff shake-up.” In her appearance, Pierson objected to that terminology, calling it merely an “expansion” of staff. “CNN is probably the only one reporting that a shake-up happened,” she said.
In an attempt at extemporaneous fact-checking, Costello noted that “even Fox News” had used shake-up language in its reporting on the Trump campaign’s latest shake-up. Here’s Pierson’s ingenious response to that one: “But that’s what I’m saying — it’s not a shake-up. This is simply an expansion.”
Though fabulously compensated, cable-news hosts who have tangled with Pierson & Co. are entitled to a Trump-campaign-coverage bonus once campaign 2016 concludes.