Fortunately, we can all blame President Trump. That way, the fact checkers need not acknowledge any error.
A Feb. 6, 2018 PolitiFact fact check took as an assertion of fact Trump's apparent opinion that the word "treason" might apply to Democrats who failed to applaud good news about the United States during Trump's State of the Union Address.
PolitiFact, in classic straw man fashion, insisted that "treason" had to refer to the type codified in law, and so rated Trump's claim "Pants on Fire" (bold emphasis added):
Trump said that at the State of the Union address, Democrats, "even on positive news … were like death and un-American. Un-American. "even on positive news … were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not?"In fact, "treason" has a broader definition than PolitiFact allowed:
There’s a good reason why not: Declining to applaud the president doesn’t come anywhere near meeting the constitutionally defined threshold of treason, which in any case can’t occur except in wartime. Rather, legal experts agree that it is a clear case of constitutionally protected free speech. We rate the statement Pants on Fire.
- the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
- a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state.
- the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.
Is it a good idea to use words in ways that run against their commonly understood meanings? That's a different issue.
Trump afforded his critics another marvelous opportunity to criticize his temperament and wisdom, but that criticism belongs in op-eds, not fact checks.
The dastardly Trump forced helpless journalists to abandon their objectivity.
How dare he.
Update Feb. 8, 2018
We weren't going to make a big deal of PolitiFact saying that Trump was suggesting that not applauding for him (Trump) might qualify as treason.
But then PolitiFact started emphasizing that misleading headline on Twitter:
That's just bad reporting, and it's a classic example of a biased headline. Trump says failing to applaud good news about the United States might pass as treason, not the failure to applaud President Trump.Check out our new video fact-check of President Trump's claim that not applauding for him could be construed as "treason." (It got a Pants on Fire.) https://t.co/Mqf5sZaYBh pic.twitter.com/cuYcKcv09Y— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) February 8, 2018
Nonpartisan and objective journalists should be able to distinguish between the two.
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