Media critic

There was just no way that Fox News host Tucker Carlson was going to carry water for the Trump administration. No way at all. He even declared that he would not. “I think there’ve been some falsehoods coming out of the Trump administration. I’m not here to defend them,” he said.

Then he proceeded to defend them, cleverly.

This little trick surfaced in a discussion with John Haltiwanger, senior politics writer at Elite Daily, who had agreed with New York University Professor Jay Rosen that journalists should refrain from interviewing Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway because she is careless with the truth.

The problem with airing interviews with Trump people, alleged Haltiwanger, is that you cannot trust what they say. “When they insist on spreading blatant falsities, it’s hard to hold them accountable. When you say no, that’s not true, and they’re just going to say, no, that’s just an alternative fact, it’s a little hard to do your job,” he argued.

To rebut this argument, Carlson trotted out the everyone-does-it argument. “It’s not unique to them,” said Carlson. “So, we just had eight years of administration where they said things like, I don’t know, ‘If you want to keep your plan, you can keep your plan.’ Not true. I’ve got a whole list of untrue things that the president said. And not about dumb things like attendance at a rally but things about, I don’t know, the steel industry or Benghazi or the war in Iraq. I mean, like, real things and like all presidents, he lied.”

Bolding inserted to assist in identifying that list. Here’s the relevant screen shot:

A few additional reams of paper will be needed if Carlson wants to assemble a comparable list of Trump falsehoods and lies. They’re everywhere. Back in the fall, Politico Magazine calculated that over a five-day period Trump “averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds over nearly five hours of remarks.” The falsehoods/lies cover many “real things,” like the man’s position on the Iraq War, voting fraud and race relations. They cover trivial things, too, like whether the United States has any chess grandmasters (Trump said it doesn’t; it does).

It has been a non-stop procession. Look at the PolitiFact chart from last summer breaking down the truth record of major-party presidential nominees:

(Screen shot via PolitiFact)

Trends well established in the campaign have transitioned robustly into the Trump presidency. Sean Spicer spewed various falsehoods Saturday in a press rant; Conway stood up for him in an interview with NBC News’s Chuck Todd, arguing that Spicer had offered “alternative facts”; and Trump himself is spreading more bogus voter-fraud claims.

So yes, this is unique.

Don’t trust the Erik Wemple Blog or PolitiFact, however. Trust Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who ran into Trump’s disinformation machine in the Republican primary. His takeaway? Trump is a “pathological liar.”

Positioning Trump as just another mendacious politician amounts to an enormous gift from the likes of Carlson. His 9 p.m. Fox News show is becoming a ratings machine. Segments like this one certainly distinguish Fox News from its competitors, and Trump himself last night showed that he’s carefully following the rivalries: