BOB GARFIELD: From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media. I’m Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I’m Brooke Gladstone. What a week it’s been, so full of farce and deceit and downright lunacy, you’d think the Moon was closer and brighter and more disorienting than it’s been all year. But the fact is the Supermoon comes Sunday, so even heaven can’t help us.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I will tell you this in a non-braggadocious way.
There has never been a 10-month president that has accomplished what we have accomplished. That I can tell you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It’s true. By bombarding the nation with such a ceaseless and accelerating volume of crazy, Donald J. Trump has actually slowed down time. Never has ten months passed so slowly. In our office this week, the multiple TV monitors mounted over our heads were filled with stupefaction nigh on to shock, as he tweeted graphic anti-Muslim videos by a far-right British hate group and then told the British prime minister to mind her own business when she objected, and snickered at the leader of North Korea, after it tested its most powerful ICBM yet, and slammed a political foe with a Native American slur at an event honoring Native American war heroes, and revived baseless suspicions about Barack Obama's birthplace, and suggested it wasn't his voice on that Access Hollywood video boasting about sexual assault, for which he’d already apologized, while implying that it was NBC’s chairman who was guilty of sexual impropriety and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough guilty of murder.
Most predictably, he proclaimed that his preferred tax bill would actually hurt the rich, would hurt him, while a New York Times analysis found that his family personally stands to gain a billion bucks from its passage.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think my accountants are going crazy right now. It’s all right. Hey look, I’m president.
I don’t care. I don’t care anymore. I don’t --
[CHEERS, LAUGHTER CONTINUE/END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But the president’s most awe-inspiring accomplishments are trampling on the idea that reality matters, that, in fact, it has a material impact on the life of every citizen, and marketing the notion that the best of the American press, however imperfect it may be, is not a truth seeker but just another special interest, an enemy, here, there and everywhere.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump tweeted that CNN International was a, quote, “major source of fake news and represent our nation to the world very poorly.” This is pretty remarkable.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That kind of thing has an impact. After CNN recently released a report on Libyan slave markets, a TV station there used Trump's claims about CNN to cast doubt on the story. Trump, of course, is not alone in his intolerance of reality. On Wednesday at The Hague, a convicted war criminal received the news that his 20-year jail term would be upheld, declared that he wasn't a criminal and took a swig of poison. He chose death over life in a world that saw the truth of him.
Denial, itself, is a poison and it's polluted America's ether. Call it “special pleading,” if you will but take heed when America's president works so tirelessly to so distrust in our engines of accountability -- our data collectors, our research institutions, our best media organizations -- and emboldens others to do the same. Consider the case of Senate candidate and accused predator of teenagers Roy Moore of Alabama. Here he is at a Monday night rally.
ROY MOORE: We’ve seen malicious and false attacks, which reflect the immorality of our time.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The effort to discredit journalists reporting the story, notably the Washington Post, has been so crude that it seems even the liars don’t care. Last week, an Alabama pastor, among many others, received a robocall left by a so-called Post reporter.
ROBOCALLER: Hi, this is “Bernie Bernstein.” I’m a reporter for the Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: -- Man, that is insulting.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh --
JOE SCARBOROUGH: This is insulting.
SAM STEIN: It is. It’s the most anti-Semitic r --
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That’s the panel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe yukking it up.
SAM STEIN: “I got a little stain from my matzo ball soup.” I mean, Jewy McJewster…
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Obviously, no such person works for the Washington Post, which, by the way, doesn’t pay its sources.
And then this week --
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: The Washington Post says it was the target of a sting operation, apparently run by the conservative activist group Project Veritas.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: The newspaper confronted a woman who falsely claimed that Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore impregnated her as a teenager.
MALE CORRESPONDENT: It turns out she was played by Project Veritas to make this up, to try to undermine the Washington Post’s reporting on the Alabama Senate candidate.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Project Veritas is the brainchild of James O’Keefe, notorious for launching sting operations against the voting rights group ACORN, Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, CNN and many more, often by going undercover to record and then incriminate them through creative editing.
In this case, Project Veritas seemed bent on catching a Washington Post reporter claiming that dirt on Moore would lead to his defeat. Instead, the Washington Post did a counter sting, tracking the woman to Project Veritas and confronting James O’Keefe --
WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Does Jaime Phillips work for Project Veritas? Did you guys send her to speak -- to pose as a victim of Roy Moore to the Washington Post?
JAMES O'KEEFE: I am two minutes late for this. So --
JAMES O’KEEFE: -- I got to, I got to run. But I will -- we will get in touch with you, okay?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: --- recording the conversation with the accuser Jaime Phillips.
JAIME PHILLIPS: I want him to be completely taken out of the race…and I really expected that that was going to happen, and now it's not.
STEPHANIE MCCRUMMEN: Yeah, well, you know, like I said that, you know, the starting point really is to hear your story, so --
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BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah, we can take a moment to celebrate that the hoaxsters have failed in their mission to undermine journalism but that mission has wealthy backers, including Donald J. Trump who, in March 2015, donated to Project Veritas. That was before he could do the job himself.