Is this the first such editorial of the 2020 cycle? “I think so,” responded Julie Anderson, the Sentinel’s editor in chief, who oversees both the paper’s news coverage and its editorials. “All the lies are unacceptable and, to us, the editorial board, just disqualifying," Anderson said, adding that the early editorial was a “way to bring attention to that.”
The editorial, accordingly, attaches great weight to the president’s mendacity, citing The Post’s own count of more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. “There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career,” notes the editorial. “Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018, he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019, he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week, he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).”
The president’s lying is the only argument you need in a debate about Trump. His apologists like to drone on about his authenticity, his anti-establishment bona fides, or his appreciation of U.S. industrial decline. Such arguments merely paper over the reality that there is virtually no topic about which Trump hasn’t lied, often repeatedly. Immigration, trade, Iran, North Korea, health care — they all lead back to false and misleading claims.
In publishing the editorial 500-plus days before the election, the Sentinel is making a parallel bet on Trump’s incorrigibility. “Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent,” reads the editorial. “Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump. After 2½ years, we’ve seen enough.”
In August 1998, the Sentinel called on President Bill Clinton to resign over his own scandal — lying and acting without dignity in regard to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The Trump editorial aligns with the spirit of that piece, Anderson said. If there had been “any question” about the possibility of endorsing Trump, she noted, “we would have waited.”
According to Anderson, the idea to “strike now" originated with Mike Lafferty, the paper’s opinions editor. “And we all thought it was brilliant," recalled Anderson.
Whatever they say and whenever they say it, newspaper editorial boards struggle to raise the eyebrows of their local readers. According to a Pew Research Center survey during the 2008 election, nearly 70 percent of respondents said that the endorsement of their local newspaper made no difference in their votes. Greater impact, however, comes when the endorsement bucks years of tradition.
Reaction to the editorial, said Anderson, has been about 50-50 for and against. One of the sentiments expressed by the detractors commonly arrives in many newsrooms’ email inboxes: “'We knew you were biased and this just confirms it."