Where the truth lies


We’re not yet a week into the Strange New Era in Washington, and it’s already featured enough strangeness for the first efforts trying to explain how reporters are explaining things that are not that easily explainable.

By this we mean the new Commander in Chief’s penchant for making statements that are coming up a few shades short in the credibility department. In other words, he seems prone to peddling in provable falsehoods. Or is it more accurate to just say he straight out lies?

How to handle Donald Trump’s loose loyalty to verifiable truth has become one of the early questions surrounding his tenure.

In his six short days in office, he’s provided plenty of fodder for consideration, including wildly exaggerated false claims about the crowd size at his inauguration; charges that his hostility to intelligence agencies was a media invention; and bogus claims that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the presidential election (every single one of them, he said in an interview Wednesday night, for “the other side”) by illegal immigrants. He doubled down on the claim yesterday by saying he’ll order a federal probe of something that, well, didn’t happen.

As Matt Viser writes on the front-page of today’s Boston Globe, it’s hardly like the flurry of falsehoods took anyone completely by surprise.

“The head-spinning sequence had all the hallmarks that the country witnessed throughout his campaign: First came an early morning tweet calling for the investigation. It was immediately clear his claim had no basis in fact. His demand for an investigation then sent many in the political class — the media, and political supporters and detractors — into a state of astonishment.”

Still, the fact that he’s maintaining the same standard for truth telling as a late-night infomercial huckster after assuming the most powerful office in the world is leaving observers amazed. “The statements by Trump, made in his fifth day in office, again strained the credibility of an institution that has the world’s biggest megaphone and can guide global financial markets and world diplomacy,” writes Viser.

Or, as Dan Barry of The New York Times writes about the voter-fraud claim, “such a baseless statement by a president challenged the news media to find the precise words to describe it. This will be a recurring challenge, given President Trump’s habit of speaking in sales-pitch hyperbole and his tendency to deride any less-than-flattering report as ‘fake news.’”

Barry reviews how news organizations have treated the story, saying some went with the adverbs “falsely” or “wrongly” to frame their stories, using descriptions like “with no evidence” to further describe Trump’s baseless charges. He says the Times originally used “falsely” in its online story, before switching to use of the word “lie” both online and in its Tuesday print story, which was headlined, “Meeting with top lawmakers, Trump repeats an election lie.”

National Public Radio has tended to avoid use of the word lie, because, reporter Mary Louise Kelly told listeners on Wednesday morning, it implies an intention to deceive. “Without the ability to peer into Donald Trump’s head, I can’t tell you what his intent was,” she said. “I can tell you what he said and how that squares, or doesn’t, with facts.”

Times executive editor Dean Baquet tells Barry the paper understands the gravity of using the term “lie” to refer to the president, but felt it was warranted. (The paper also used the term on its front page in September — “Trump gives up a lie but refuses to repent” — when then-candidate Trump finally conceded there was no evidence for his yearslong birtherism claim that President Obama was not born in the US.)

As Viser writes, it’s not as if presidents have never been caught skirting the truth. “What is new with Trump is that he has repeatedly returned to debunked claims. It amounts to a constant chipping away at credibility on issues of little consequence, with assertions that can easily be disproved. In Washington and in capitals around the world, the implications are worrisome.”



Gov. Charlie Baker submits a $40.5 billion budget proposal that includes $300 million raised from a levy on businesses whose health coverage don’t meet certain state standards, a move that is drawing criticism from business leaders. (Boston Globe) A Herald editorial applauds the budget proposal, including its call for management of the troubled MBTA pension fund to be handed to the state retirement board. During his press conference, Baker tried to explain why the state budget has been so difficult to balance even as the state’s economy hums along with a 2.8 percent interest rate. (CommonWealth)

To no one’s surprise, the House overwhelmingly passed the fast track bill to raise legislative salaries as well as those in the executive and judicial branches but Baker has indicated he’s leaning toward vetoing the measure. (CommonWealth) A Globe editorial again urges Baker to veto the measure.

Joan Vennochi says there was no need for Baker to further antagonize a thin-skinned president he disavowed by attending Saturday’s women’s march, and that he should be judged on delivering results for Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)


New court filings in the case against two former Boston City Hall aides show Mayor Marty Walsh was in on meetings with the organizers of the Boston Calling music festival at the center of the case, and that Walsh policy director Joyce LInehan has testified in the case. (Boston Herald) Mayoral challenger Tito Jackson jumped on the report and called on Walsh to “speak plainly and come clean” about the case; Walsh has refused to say whether he’s been called to the grand jury investigating the issue. (Boston Globe)

Barnstable County officials are mulling early retirement incentives to employees to try to balance the fiscal 2018 budget. (Cape Cod Times)

Just two homeless families with a total of six children are living in motels in Danvers, down from 195 families with 299 children four years ago. (Salem News)


President Trump begins his promised crackdown on illegal immigrants and vows to penalize so-called sanctuary cities. (Boston Globe) Mayor Marty Walsh pushes back at Trump’s vow to strip so-called sanctuary cities of federal funds and says Boston will stand firm in his vow to protect illegal immigrants. (Boston Globe) Attorney General Maura Healey calls Trump’s action irresponsible. (MassLive)

Some liberals are in a lather over the unanimous Senate Banking Committee vote to confirm Ben Carson as HUD secretary, but liberal Democrats who voted yes, including Elizabeth Warren, seem to have concluded he’s actually not as bad as they had feared — or as bad as second choice would be should his nomination be killed. (Vox) Warren’s reasoning is outlined here. (MassLive)

The Economist Group, which publishes an annual index of nations used by businesses, financial firms, and government officials, has downgraded the United States ranking from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy” but said Trump’s election was not the cause, just the final piece in a list of longstanding problems. (U.S. News & World Report)


The stock market has been on a tear since Trump’s election. But why? (Boston Globe)

TD Garden says it will cut its ties to the private security firm whose guards have been accused of mistreating homeless people at North Station. (Boston Globe)

The Fall River Chamber of Commerce is changing its name to the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce following a spat with its New Bedford counterpart when that group considered changing its name to SouthCoast Chamber, a name both groups claimed title to. (Herald News)

OSHA is investigating the death of a worker at a Stop & Shop distribution center in Assonet who was crushed when a forklift fell on him on a truck loading dock. (Standard-Times)


Worcester school officials are worried about whether low-income students can afford the unsubsidized price of Advanced Placement exams. The federal government recently ended subsidies it provided. (Telegram & Gazette)

Harvard plans to lay off half the staff of its endowment fund and contract outside firms to manage investments for the world’s largest, but consistently underperforming, fund. (Wall Street Journal)

Framingham has narrowed the field of candidates for school superintendent to three, including the superintendent in Weston. (Telegram & Gazette) For a broader look at the game of musical chairs among school superintendents and the negative impact it has, check this out. (CommonWealth)


Dr. David Roberts, a cardiologist, is named president of North Shore Medical Center. (Salem News)


Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal rejiggers funding for the MBTA — same amount overall but less to cover operating deficits and more for capital projects. (CommonWealth)


Federal energy regulators have granted conditional approval to a controversial gas compressor station on the Fore River in Weymouth as long as the proposed facility receives state environmental and waterway permits. (Patriot Ledger)

A Lowell Sun editorial hails President Trump’s “pragmatic” decision to give a green light to the Keystone pipeline.

The Trump administration crackdown on use of social media among environmental and parks officials has prompted a backlash by dissidents apparently within the agencies striking back at a president who has called climate change a “hoax.” (Boston Globe)


A Quincy man charged with being the getaway driver in a bank heist has filed suit against the town of Arlington and the police officer who shot him, claiming he was unarmed and unaware his passenger had just robbed the bank. (Patriot Ledger)

A routine traffic stop in Pittsfield turns deadly when the driver of the pulled-over vehicle sped away and was eventually shot and killed. (Berkshire Eagle)

A Cohasset attorney was convicted of vehicular homicide after the SUV she was driving struck and killed a man walking on a sidewalk near the Brockton District Court last June. (The Enterprise)


Breitbart News is trying to go mainstream. (The Atlantic)

Critics say the steps taken by Google and Facebook to stem the flow of “fake news” are woefully inadequate. (New York Times)


Mary Tyler Moore, who turned the world on with her smile while defining a new model of American womanhood with her television portrayal of plucky news producer Mary Richards, died yesterday at age 80. (New York Times) Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for the Washington Post, says Moore showed many women journalists the life they wanted.