In an interview on “Meet the Press,” President Trump repeated a whopper of a lie.


The Post’s fact-checkers back in April explained: “The Obama administration rejected a plan for family separations, according to Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s top adviser for immigration. The Trump administration operated a pilot program for family separations in the El Paso area beginning in mid-2017.” Trump’s claim that “Obama did it first” is both morally vapid and completely wrong: “The Trump administration implemented this policy by choice, exercising its discretion to prosecute some crimes over others. But no law or court ruling mandates family separations. In fact, during its first 15 months, the Trump administration released nearly 100,000 immigrants who were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, a total that includes more than 37,500 unaccompanied minors and more than 61,000 family-unit members.” In short, “The zero-tolerance approach is worlds apart from the Obama- and Bush-era policy of separating children from adults at the border only in limited circumstances, such as when officials suspected human trafficking or another kind of danger to the child or when false claims of parentage were made.”

Jake Tapper at CNN showed the right way to confront administration members on Sunday, when he went right after Vice President Pence’s misrepresentations about the dismal condition of children still held. After playing a clip of administration lawyers arguing in the 9th Circuit that there was no responsibility to provide basic necessities to children such as toothbrushes, Pence tried to claim that he didn’t know what the lawyers were saying. Tapper kept after him:

”But this is going on right now,” Tapper said, adding “This is the wealthiest nation in the world. We have money to give toothpaste and soap and blankets to these kids in this facility in El Paso County. Right now, we do.”

That’s precisely how reporters need to go after Trump and his morally deficient administration. This is the Trump administration’s policy. This is the Trump administration’s doing. This is the Trump administration’s refusal to address basic humanitarian needs (while raiding the Defense Department to build a useless wall that has nothing to do with asylum seekers presenting themselves at the border).

Allowing Trump and his ilk to bluster and flat-out lie their way through interviews might be the path of least resistance when trying to cover a lot of ground. However, if Trump and his teammates are not stopped dead in their tracks, the media become a platform for deceiving voters.

Headlines that echo the president — “Trump says Obama did it first” — are equally reprehensible. (It should be “Trump falsely blames Obama for his own policy.”) Trump, Pence and the rest are accustomed to running through their ridiculous talking points (e.g. the United States has the cleanest water and air in the world) without objection on outlets such as Fox. Other media can and must do better. And when the general-election debates roll around, moderators must be willing to correct misstatements of fact. (Or follow up by asking, “But that’s not true, is it Mr. President?")

We’re at risk of losing not only a shared set of facts but also a uniform belief that there are such things as facts. That’s straight out of the autocratic playbook — one that the media cannot facilitate.

Read more:

James Downie: Mike Pence is just helpless

Greg Sargent: Border crossings just spiked again. Trump’s response is getting more absurd.

Henry Olsen: We don’t take immigration enforcement seriously. Trump’s deportation threats show why.

Marc A. Thiessen: Don’t downplay Trump’s role in the U.S.-Mexico immigration deal. His strategy worked.

Alexandria Petri: Appropriate ways of describing what is happening at the border