There’s an active debate inside newsrooms, and particularly within the NPR newsroom, about how to characterize the statements of POTUS when they are at odds with evidence to the contrary.
That debate began during the presidential election campaign. For example, in 2015, candidate POTUS claimed that when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, “I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.”
The claim was never substantiated and NPR said so. But we didn’t call him a liar.
In September 2016, POTUS got into a tiff with an African-American pastor, the Rev. Faith Green Timmons of Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, Mich. Timmons had criticized POTUS for failing to keep his remarks to her congregation, as promised, nonpartisan. POTUS later had his own version of that event. Our reporter Scott Detrow was there. He reported what he saw and heard, and that didn’t back up POTUS’ account. Back then some listeners asked why NPR didn’t just report that POTUSw was a liar.
This week that same question is being posed to NPR.