GOP pollster Frank Luntz recently told Vanity Fair correspondent Gabriel Sherman that Luntz had asked President Trump what his middle initial of J stood for. According to Luntz, President Trump replied, “Genius.” Mr. Sherman then hastily reported the quip as fact. Naturally, this “fact” spread quickly on social media. This is pathetic on so many levels.
Journalists are taught to ferret out the truth (at least they used to be), and for a journalist to report anything without verification is irresponsible, especially something as easily fact-checked as a president’s middle name. Moreover, this particular anti-Trump journalist allowed personal bias to cloud his professionalism. He assumed Donald John Trump could not spell “genius” and gleefully reported as much. In this case, reporting that President Trump referred to himself as a “genius with a J” was nothing more than spiteful political nonsense. What is truly nonsensical is the current temperament of our nation; we have become so accustomed to “fake news” and to our President’s frequent misspellings/mispronunciations a “J is for genius” joke is both possible and believable. This, however, does not forgive the Vanity Fair correspondent’s spiteful rush to judgment.
And what of this rush to anti-Trump judgment? In the age of “covfefe” and the “smocking gun,” one could argue Mr. Sherman’s hasty conclusion here was understandable, but haste makes waste, as they say. Yes, Donald Trump more often than not stretches the truth. Yes, he often misspeaks and is sometimes befuddled, but assuming everything the man says is foolish presents a twisted “cry wolf” scenario that may lead to missing the moment he says something meaningful and impactful. The situation this country is presently in is not a comedy skit or a Stephen Colbert monologue. This is our reality. Something needs to change going forward, but nothing ever will if journalists’ spite usurps fairness and integrity, and if Americans’ lack of confidence in their President consistently leads to laughter and derision rather than to thoughtful examination of truth followed by action.