Donald Trump’s campaign is rolling out a new strategy to try to tamp down the widespread criticism from the media and his fellow Republicans of Trump’s racist comments about a federal judge: flat-out lie about what he said and why. There’s one simple thing that news producers and anchors should be prepared to do in order to hold the presumptive Republican presidential nominee accountable: show video of Trump’s own words on the subject.
For weeks, Trump has falsely suggested that Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing lawsuits regarding his defunct Trump University business, could not be trusted to act fairly because his Mexican heritage presents a conflict of interest, given Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Yesterday, Trump released a statement in which he argued that his comments about Curiel had been “misconstrued.” According to the statement, while Trump does not “feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial,” he feels “justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.” It also states that “questions were raised” regarding Curiel’s “impartiality” because of the judge’s past rulings and his “reported associations with certain professional organizations.”
Trump is simply lying about what he has said about the judge. And his other claims are bogus too: Experts say that the judge’s rulings have been fair; Trump’s description of the judge’s associations are false; and Trump’s own lead lawyer for the case has said that he will not ask the judge to recuse himself because he is “doing his job.”
Nonetheless, Trump’s supporters are now actively lying about Trump’s comments during television appearances, backing up his statement by claiming that his comments were never really about Curiel’s heritage.
Trump senior advisor Tana Goertz made one such attempt this morning on CNN. Asked whether Trump feels sorry for his comments, she said, “Mr. Trump was just bringing up that there's a conflict of interest with the judge's ties to La Raza. That’s bottom line. We’ve been down this road a million times.”
To her credit, anchor Kate Bolduan pushed back immediately, saying, “No, that’s actually not the case, Tana. And you know that. He’s the one who first brought up the fact that he says, ‘I believe he’s Mexican. That’s OK.’ And then he said it was not OK.”
But that didn’t stop Goertz, who replied, “I’m very aware of how it went down,” before claiming that Trump “does not run from issues … when he knows he’s right.”
Viewers ended up hearing a debate between the anchor and the Trump surrogate over what Trump said and why.
There’s a better way. Knowing that Trump’s surrogates are going to lie about what Trump said, network anchors should be prepared to run video of the presumptive GOP nominee’s statements.
In an interview last week, CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Trump about his racist comments more than 20 times. If Trump or one of his surrogates starts lying about what he’s been saying about Curiel, anchors should play this clip:
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): But you're invoking his race when talking about whether or not he can do his job?
DONALD TRUMP: Jake, I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall. I'm trying to keep business out of Mexico. Mexico’s fine. There's nothing --
TAPPER: But he's American. He’s an American.
TRUMP: He's of Mexican heritage, and he's proud of it, as I am of where I come from.
Or this one:
TAPPER: Is it not -- when Hillary Clinton says this is a racist attack, you reject that, if you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?
TRUMP: No. I don't think so at all. He's proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.
TAPPER: But you’re say he can't do his job because of that.
TRUMP: Look, he's proud of his heritage. I'm building a wall.
Or this one:
TRUMP: This is a case that should have ended. This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now, I say why? Well, I'm building a wall, OK? And it's a wall between Mexico, not another country and --
TAPPER: But he's not from Mexico, he's from Indiana.
TRUMP: Mexican heritage. And he's very proud of it.
Trump is trying to gaslight the media. It’s their responsibility to expose these lies for what they are.