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Stop Airing Trump’s Bullshit Sessions


At least when Richard Epstein writes ridiculous nonsense about how a COVID-19 pandemic is nothing to worry about nobody reads it. The president misleading the public is another matter, and networks should stop airing them:

For the sake of public health, journalistic integrity, and the public’s basic mental health, it’s time to stop broadcasting President Donald Trump’s daily “coronavirus task force” briefings live.

Every president has had occasion to call upon broadcasters to air his words to the public when he has newsworthy or urgent announcements to make. When Trump said he wanted to address the nation from the Oval Office about coronavirus, it was right to extend him the opportunity to address the crisis. It was even right to offer some forbearance to his history of incessant lying once he started making himself the star of daily coronavirus briefings.

But no president in American history has ever had the privilege of having his every word simulcast across news networks. And we’ve now seen enough of Trump’s daily events to know that these are not briefings in any conventional sense. As James Fallows puts it, they are “Trump campaign rallies with scientists rather than local-government officials as the supporting cast.”

In ordinary times, of course, any politician is entitled to hold rallies. But that’s what these events are — ersatz rallies held for political purposes rather than bona fide attempts to inform the public. You can’t stop the president from holding rallies and lying, or even from streaming those lies live to a slice of the public. But there’s no reason to cover them as if they are legitimate policy briefings, and it’s a dangerous delusion to believe that asking tough questions on camera can undo the harm of misinformation.

Television networks should do what many print or digital news organizations do — watch the spectacles and then cover anything newsworthy that takes place, without treating them as actual sources of public information.

The whole thing is worth reading. Stay to the end for the obviously correct point that asking “tough questions” to a shameless liar is not actually a useful remedy.

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