CNN President Jeff Zucker Has Failed In The Current Crisis

After yesterday’s attempted bombing of CNN headquarters, CNN president Jeff Zucker issued this statement:

There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.

That statement is a serious, possibly fatal, failure of journalistic standards. Why?

CNN and the press has been strict about not calling false statements from “The President and the White House Press Secretary” lies, on the grounds they don’t know the state of mind of a person making a statement, that they usually can’t know a false statement is a lie.

A liar has to know he’s lying in order to tell a lie. A false statement made in good faith, or even in ignorance, is not a lie. Depending on the circumstances, it is something else: A false statement, a negligent act, an irresponsible statement, but not a lie.

The time my boss told me I was getting a raise, and his boss make him take it back? While the expression is “made him a liar”, and while he was rightly chagrined at going back on his word, that is not a lie. He told what he believed to be the truth. He was not a liar.

(I still hold a grudge over that, as much over my boss getting jerked around by his boss as over losing my tiny cost of living raise.)

So read this again:

There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.

That is an example of Jeff Zucker assuming he knows the state of mind of “The President and the White House Press Secretary”. He assumes they don’t understand what they are doing. He is assuming he knows their state of mind, which he does not.

Possibly Zucker is trying to de-escalate. That is an understandable mistake, but it is still a mistake. It’s wrong to go against journalistic standards to give powerful people a break in one case while obeying those standards elsewhere, also to give powerful people a break.

It’s also a grave misunderstanding of the situation. What was the response from “The President and the White House Press Secretary”? Here are the words of President That Guy earlier this morning:

A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!

So here is my question to Jeff Zucker: What makes you think That Guy doesn’t know what he’s doing?

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