Texas Congressman Lamar Smith to constituents: Ignore traditional sources and get your news from President Trump.
“Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex)
SAN MARCOS, Texas — The words above were spoken on the House floor on January 23, 2017, by Congressman Lamar Smith, whose congressional district extends from Leakey, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Boerne, and Northwest San Antonio, to New Braunfels, San Marcos, and on into South Austin. Apparently, he believes that his constituents should ignore all traditional sources of news and instead get their news only from President Trump.
One San Antonio journalist, Rick Casey, had the temerity to point out that this was pretty much the way it works in North Korea. His comments were censored, for a time, by the PBS station in San Antonio. The full story should serve as the canary in the coal mine for a free press.
PBS affiliate KLRN temporarily pulled Rick Casey’s commentary about Smith’s comments.
Casey has a regular weekly program on PBS affiliate KLRN in San Antonio. The program — Texas Week — usually concludes with a commentary from Casey, and is also published in the San Antonio Express-News. The newspaper carried Casey’s thoughts about Rep. Smith’s House comments on February 3. But the station’s President and CEO since January 2015, Arthur Rojas Emerson, pulled the commentary less than an hour before it was to air.
It should be noted that Emerson has been in broadcasting for many years, broken by a stint as CEO of a public relations agency, which had Rep. Smith as a client at one time.
Apparently, Emerson was concerned “that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was under attack and that this would add to it.” The federally funded CPB provides financing for public stations, including KLRN. President Trump is viewed as hostile to public broadcasting and eager to cut its federal financing. For some unfathomable reason, Emerson was concerned also that the commentary might be defamatory.
After a discussion with Casey, publicity in the Texas Tribune, and discussion by Texas Week supporters on Facebook about the matter, Emerson relented and allowed the commentary to air on KLRN. You can watch or read Casey’s statement and commentary here.
PolitiFact found 78% of Trump’s statements to be false, mostly-false, or ‘pants-on-fire.’
Contrary to Rep. Smith’s opinion about Trump’s truth-telling, PolitiFact did a mid-year report on last year’s candidates for president and found that now-President Trump was not a very reliable source of information during the campaign. False, mostly-false, and “pants-on-fire” statements by Trump were 78% of all his statements that were checked. In fact, Trump had more pants-on-fire statements than all of the other 21 candidates combined — 30 of the 158 Trump statements checked.
Reporting about the same time, the Washington Post Fact Checker found that 46 statements checked yielded 70% that were awarded four Pinocchios, meaning they were whoppers. According to Politico, Trump’s first week as president yielded results in line with the veracity of statements he made during the campaign: 87 “misstatements, exaggerations, falsehoods” at the rate of “one untruth every 3.25 minutes” of the total time he talked at events and press conferences. More recent fact checks on Trump have shown similar results.
The Washington Post’s fact-checking of Trump’s February 16 news conference revealed 15 falsehoods, reporting that was supported by USA Today’s fact-checking. The Post’s fact-checking of Trump’s February 18 speech at a rally in Florida found 13 “dubious claims,” the same number of such claims that it found in his February 24 speech to CPAC, which was backed up by the Pulitzer prize winning PolitiFact.
The ‘dubious claims’ were not minor or insignificant as Smith would like us to believe.
The “dubious claims” were not minor or insignificant as Rep. Smith would like for us to believe. They included Trump statements about his immigration order and the courts that overturned it, increases in the number of jobs created since he was elected that he cannot legitimately take credit for, and a false claim that the media’s approval rating is lower than that of Congress, among others.
Without a free press, we would not have this information, which confirms that in Trump we have one of the most disingenuous, deceitful, and dishonest politicians in my lifetime, which exceeds seven decades. And this is the one source of news that Rep. Smith, a member of the House Freedom of the Press Caucus, wants us to rely on to the exclusion of all others. It causes me to ask, “What exactly is the purpose of the House Freedom of the Press caucus?”
The purposes of the Freedom of the Press Caucus were enunciated by its original bipartisan co-chairs, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Mike Pence (R-IN), in 2006. Rep. Schiff said,
A free and open press is vital to a healthy democracy… By raising awareness of media censorship around the world, this caucus aims not only to protect journalists from persecution, but also to defend citizens’ access to unfettered information.
Then-Rep. Pence said,
Where there is no freedom of the press, there is no freedom. If America is to be a beacon of hope to the world, we must hold high the ideal of a free and independent press, advance it abroad and defend it at home. I am honored to associate myself with the men and women in Congress in both parties who advocate the freedom of the press for all of mankind.
It seems beyond dispute that Rep. Smith does not live up to the purposes of the Freedom of the Press Caucus if he believes President Trump is a better purveyor of the truth than the reporting of the “liberal” national media, which he thinks should be ignored.
In spite of all the faults of our free press and in spite of Rep. Smith’s denigration of it, that free press is now trying to hold both President Trump and Rep. Smith accountable for their dishonesty. It remains to be seen if the voters will hold them accountable at the next election.
[Rag Blog columnist Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, City Attorney, also blogs at Texas Freethought Journal. This article © Texas Freethought Journal, Lamar W. Hankins.]
Read more articles by Lamar W. Hankins on The Rag Blog.