October 26, 2017
Trump says a lot of things that are easily disproven and yet time after time, people race to talk shows to agree with him or create whole realities around his claims. Whether it’s going on TV to inflate crowd sizes or rush-shipping condolence letters to Gold Star families he claims to have contacted previously, Trump’s lackeys are there to clean up the mess of his misstatements. Now, generally, when any adult does this repeatedly, it's fair to make the assumption that it's not just a case of an absent-minded, honest mistake, that it’s intentional. However, news outlets are very careful about calling Trump a “liar” because assigning intent to these inaccurate statements, which is what the word "lie" or "liar" does, can lead to a libel lawsuit from the nation’s most litigious president to date. As someone who works in media, I often get asked why publications don’t attached the word “liar” to Trump in every article. I asked television writer/producer and hilarious beam of light and joy Megan Amram, to help break down the logistics of lies and spin.
Megan Amram: Hello, DAME magazine, can we talk for a second?
Michaelanne Petrella: Megan, thank you so much for sliding into our Twitter DM’s. What can we do for...
Megan: Shut up, it’s my pleasure. I love you, and always have, since this morning. Today, I want to discuss how much Trump is a liar and how you should call him that in every headline.
Michaelanne: Ha! Woo! So, as a general rule, it’s hard for us media folks to straight-up call people a liar in a news report because it assumes intent and that can land folks in hot libel water.
Megan: Is that why the press secretary is always spinning the truth? Is she afraid Trump will sue her? I could be press secretary.
Michaelanne: Oh yeah?
Megan: Try me.
Michaelanne: Here’s a hypothetical: the president announces that we bombed the North Pole, but it turns out that didn’t happen at all. Go.
Megan: GOOD MORNING, UNWASHED FAKE PRESS. TURNS OUT THAT WE ACTUALLY BOMBED THE EAST POLE. THE PRESIDENT WAS CORRECT THAT WE BOMBED A POLE, IT WAS JUST A NEW ONE. A BIGGER, SCARIER ONE.
Michaelanne: Your Huckabee Sanders impression is chilling.
Megan: It’s all in the caps lock. Give me another headline. Some really flimsy one that refuses to call him a liar, and I’ll spin that shit like gold.
Michaelanne: Okay, what if, again hypothetically, the president was caught eating out of the trash but claims that didn't happen, as he continues to chew on a banana peel in front of 12 cameras. The headline reads: “Trumpster-diving President Denies Eating Fruit” - Press Secretary Amram, your response.
Megan: THE PRESIDENT IS SO RELATABLE THAT HE EATS OUT OF THE TRASH, JUST LIKE THE HARD WORKING MEN AND WOMEN OF WISCONSIN.
Michaelanne: Classic pivot. Well done. Ok what about, an alleged report that ol’ 45 took a spill while attempting to dance for the first time in his life.
Megan: THE GROUND, A KNOWN CLINTON ASSOCIATE…
Michaelanne: *briefly chokes from laughing*
Megan: ...RAISES UP TO PUNCH PRESIDENT TRUMP IN THE FACE.
Michaelanne: Speaking of punching, here’s another hypothetical, Madam Press Secretary: What is the headline-spin if he gets into an argument with a child and...
Megan: TRUMP KISSES A BABY WITH HIS FIST.
Michaelanne: My god it’s like you were born to do this. What about “President Builds Character on Child's Face” as a headline for an explainer piece.
Megan: Now we’re cooking! This is all good stuff. I expect to see these stories posted to DAME today with these headlines.
Michaelanne: Ha! Sure thing!
Megan: And if I don’t see it, I’ll call the police.
Michaelanne: Look, obviously you’re great at this, but let’s see how good you are at helping call out his non-truths. Let’s kick around some alternative ways to say the word "liar.”
Michaelanne: For example, maybe we can get really flowery with the language and say he was word-bleeding from his malfunctioning imagination hole. Is that too abstract?
Megan: I wish we lived in a world where this headline could fit nicely inside a Tweet, but the public demands shorter sound bites.
Michaelanne: Okay, how about one-word synonyms for liar.
Megan: Instead of saying liar, say “novelist” (books are just lies).
Megan: Keep it short.
Michaelanne: What about saying he “whoopsidentally made a rut-ro.”
Megan: What part of the American attention span aren’t you getting here.
Michaelanne: We’re circling it. There has to...
Michaelanne: *silently stunned at how good Fibmonger is*
Megan: A real Lie-am Neeson.
Michaelanne: Stop. You’re hired.
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC and is truly the best show on TV.