We owe our readers and all of America an apology.
Not just us, but all of the U.S. media have done a grave disservice to our nation’s readers, viewers and listeners during the past few years.
We have lied to you about the 2016 presidential election.
We have lied not in the way that Donald Trump and even the Colorado Republican Party say we have. Actually, it’s worse. We have failed to follow the number-one tenet of journalism: accuracy.
While we, and especially I, have repeatedly blamed the deterioration of the Republican Party and the rise of tea-party activists for making it possible to nominate Trump for president, it is the media that is most at fault.
We were dishonest in that, from the beginning, we treated Trump like any other political candidate, allowing him to say whatever he wanted. On occasion, and often not, we would later in the story or the broadcast add an aside, dutifully allowing competitors or some expert to say briefly that, no, there aren’t countless white people murdered each year at the hands of blacks. No, it isn’t widely accepted that President Barack Obama is a Kenyan citizen and not one born in the United States. No, American Muslims — and actually almost all Muslims worldwide — don’t hate non-Muslims and hope to kill as many as they can or become complicit with Mid-East terrorists.
Just like all of you, we were mesmerized by Trump because he was so laughable and entertaining. Facing almost two years of scores of policy wonks duking it out over partisan talking points looked bleak.
Trump changed all that from the first day. He rode down an escalator with his orange face and comical comb-over and told the world that Mexico sends hordes of rapists and murderers to our country.
It wasn’t until months later, after he rose feverishly in the polls — and his GOP competitors couldn’t yell loud enough or roll their eyes fast enough — that the media began pointing out higher up in the stories that Trump was erroneous about Muslims dancing in the streets as the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. He was erroneous about the Colorado presidential caucus being rigged. He was erroneous about numbers about all kinds of things.
It was well after all of that, after Trump snagged the Republican nomination, that the media outside of editorials and columns began to point out when Trump lied about things. He lies a lot.
But so did we. We were played. We forgot that our most important job is to tell readers the real story, as accurately as possible. We’ve become so accustomed to being what we think is fair to our sources, that we’ve forgotten our first job is to be fair to our readers.
What we should have told you is that a clearly ill-prepared, celebrity billionaire erupted in a shocking racist delusion and announced he would seek the Republican nomination. We could have reserved that fact that he was a pompous lout for the editorial page.
Had Trump been a former state legislator from Idaho or a Midwestern CPA or an Arizona sheriff, that would have been the end of that.
We should have quoted psychologists and pundits, explaining why and how someone like Trump would seek any public office, especially that of the country’s chief administrator. And we should have immediately debunked anything we allowed him to spew into our pages and airwaves. Fact checking — after the fact? That’s a joke.
But we didn’t even do that in the beginning. We allowed Trump to use us to create a vast legion of fearful, paranoid and wretched followers, eager to hear his fantasy about the chaos in American urban areas where blacks only make time to murder whites and themselves, lying about a massive crime wave that doesn’t exist. He’s created a virtual militia that passionately believe that every Muslim in America is a threat to our security.
We were polite or remiss in not pointing out that Trump is a crackpot, like we diligently point that out about people such as David Duke and Colorado’s own Capitol kook, state Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chapps” Klingenschmitt.
Day after day, week after week, we allowed Trump to gain millions and millions of dollars worth of unfettered, free air time and print advertising, building a massive propaganda machine. It sucked in millions of Americans who now believe that the United States is on the cusp of collapse, and only he can stop it from happening with iron rule. And he’s worked hard to ward off any potential dose of reality that could dispell the delusion. He began and will finish his campaign banging the drum against the media, which he says are corrupt, conspiring liars. Meanwhile, he uses them nearly 24/7 to perpetuate his growing repertoire of fantastic lies, exaggerations and refuted denials.
We are sorry. I am sorry. While I was at the front of the parade warning readers about the clear danger of what seemed then to be merely reckless rhetoric, we, too, have published endless inaccurate wire and local stories. We were complicit in allowing Trump and his followers to perpetuate gross and outrageous lies by not clearly calling them out early in the news pages.
Sunday night, as news that FBI Director James Comey has again cleared Clinton of criminal intent or behavior in a bizarre twist in her email saga, the Associated Press ran headlines of Trump’s reaction, claiming that the FBI is wrong, that Clinton is clearly guilty of something, and that “she knows it.”
It’s a lie. The entire short, miserable political life of Donald Trump is a complete and total lie, and we’re sorry.