Back in March, Sanders denied Trump knew about the payment and said it was based upon her own conversation with Trump. “I’ve had conversations with the president about this,” she said. “This case has already been won in arbitration, and there was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he has denied all these allegations.” … “We give the very best information that we have at the time,” she said, later repeating a version of that phrase several times.
This, too, is dishonest, given that Sanders often has the requisite information (e.g. a Trump statement on video) but chooses to dissemble about it. Nevertheless, in this case she essentially said what the president told her turned out not to be true.
ABC News’s Jonathan Karl demanded to know how we can trust an administration that shows “what appears to be a blatant disregard for the truth.” When Sanders kept insisting she gave the best information available, CNN’s Jim Acosta demanded to know whether she was being lied to by the president. He asked her, “Why can’t you just answer yes or no whether you were in the dark. I think it’s a fairly simple question whether you just didn’t have the information at the time.”
Sanders, if she hadn’t before, has used up her credibility. If she cannot get and/or cannot relate truthful information, she has no business standing behind the podium. We can debate whether she knows her boss is a liar and goes along, or whether she is so gullible that she believes what he tells her — even if he then changes his story. Whatever the reason, it’s not enough to tell the media and the country “I didn’t know better” — it’s her job to know better and answer with authority.
Moreover, if Sanders was really trying to do her job honestly, she would come forward the moment she learned that she had been given false information. Instead, she plays 20 questions with the press, waiting to reveal new information only when a series of questions manages to corner her. Even worse, instead of responding to questions about misstatements, she frequently retorts by accusing the media or others of acting unfairly. (It’s quite a sight to see the White House defend itself by petulantly claiming, in essence, “You guys were mean to the president!”)
Sanders apparently has no moral qualms about misleading the American people over and over — despite the oath she took to the country, not to the president. (“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter …”) In deliberately misleading or passing on misleading information, Sanders is not serving the American people. She is thwarting democratic government and enabling Trump’s attempts to free himself of investigations.
She is not about to leave, even after it is obvious that her main job requirement is to mislead the media. For members of the media, however, the question becomes whether their expression of outrage on Thursday was a momentary spasm or whether they are no longer going to take her seriously. Put differently, since they know she frequently denies established facts or passes on Trump’s falsehoods, there is a real question as to why they bother with the White House daily press briefing.
If a background source repeatedly lied to them, they’d stop using that source. It’s no different with an on-the-record and on-air source. Unless the news conferences are going to be televised with a disclaimer for the audience (“We cannot vouch for the veracity of the person behind the podium given her repeated misstatements”) or the news conferences will not be televised live (so that TV news producers have time to make a list of the misstatements before they do run all or parts of the conferences), why put her on camera to mislead them and the American people? There is no purpose to questions if the answer could as easily be a lie as the truth. So long as press briefings are a platform for Sanders and/or the president simply to make stuff up, the media has no obligation to play along.
The media is obligated to ask the White House for comment on its reports and to relay its statements, but it is not obligated to give Sanders an open mic to accuse them of lying and, worse, to deceive them. Maybe they should just stop showing up. When she proves that she can be reliable, they can decide to return to the on-camera daily press briefings.