Trump can’t change the truth

By Frank Harris III

The Hartford Courant

Truth is the most important thing.

That is what I learned growing up. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth. This was something my parents instilled in me, particularly my dad.

To lie was the worst thing you could do. My two siblings and I had been told this repeatedly. If we lied about something, no matter what it was, it would make matters worse if we were caught in a lie.

Truth was supreme. To lie was wrong.

One morning my brother and I woke up repeating the profane rhyming words we’d heard from the teenagers in the park the evening before as our dad passed by our room and asked, “What did you say?”

We did not hesitate. We told him the truth –- word for profane word.

And we got it good. Yes, the truth could be painful, and while I took little solace in knowing it would have been worse had I lied, the truth was something I learned to stand for.

I shared this story with the students in my Reporting and Writing class as I discussed with them the current state of the truth in America following President Donald Trump’s reference to journalists as dishonest people for accurately reporting what he said about the intelligence community.

As a journalist, columnist, professor who teaches future journalists and father who teaches his children the value of the truth, it is chilling what the nation and the world have seen from President Trump.

We have a president with no regard for the Constitution who swore on the Bible that he would uphold the Constitution. A president who eschews news and information that does not please him. A president who won’t release his tax returns while holding who-knows-what kind of financial deals with other countries. A president who wants everyone to fall in line and agree and never criticize him or his administration. A president who it seems would like nothing more than to lock journalists up.

It is the stuff of dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.

Like oil and water, Trump and truth don’t mix.

It is either a conscious choice or something he just can’t help. He has a moral conscience that points in one direction: to him.

It doesn’t matter who you voted for. The truth is the truth. There are no “alternative facts” – as Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, tried to posit. You cannot replace the facts simply because the president doesn’t like the facts presented before him. You cannot say you had the largest inauguration crowd when the facts show otherwise.

You cannot lambast the intelligence agencies and then call the news media dishonest people for accurately reporting what you are clearly on record as saying.

You cannot say the raindrops stopped falling on your head the moment you spoke at the inauguration when the rain kept falling on your head.

Journalists across this land are right to call out Trump, his press secretary, counsel and others in his administration when they state falsehoods and outright lies. Journalists must set the record straight.

Journalists must not dispassionately watch as a president slings “alternative facts” from his tongue like a sledgehammer on the dam of truth – lest the crack becomes a breach that drowns the nation in lies.

Fact: This is America. “Great” does not equal lies.

Truth is the most important thing.

Make Trump truthful.

Frank Harris III is a professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. He wrote this for the Hartford Courant.

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