Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein pushed conspiracy theories on Sunday, claiming that the Trump administration will declare the midterm elections “illegitimate,” should the Republicans narrowly lose the House of Representatives. In between calling the President a liar like no other, the reporter demanded the press do more: “We need to be doing much more than just Trump lie catching.”
Talking to Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources, Bernstein insinuated, “I talked to people in the White House on — or in touch with the White House — on Friday who believe that if the congressional midterms are very close and the Democrats were to win by five or seven seats that Trump is already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts.”
Notice how that sentence started out: Bernstein “talked to people in the White house.” The Watergate-era journalist then stopped and changed it to people “in touch with the White House.” Kind of a big difference as to who Bernstein is telling these things.
Continuing his conspiratorial tone, the reporter worried about all the untruth in America, lies that naturally only journalists can unearth: “It's not just President Trump who's winning that war, it's the forces of those who believe in untruth and paramount among those forces is Donald Trump in the way he looks at the world.”
Bernstein also lobbied for media outlets to be more aggressive in confronting Trump: “I want to suggest that particularly, news institutions and particularly on television cable news, that we need to be doing much more than just Trump lie catching.”
Of course, Bernstein has been freaking out all year. In April, he declared that “were in constitutional crisis” with this administration. Considering some of the botched reporting coming out of CNN, perhaps the network isn’t in a position to judge.
A transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more:
BRIAN STELTER: There's a trend running through all the stories you've been talking about today from fake news to fear-mongering, to hyper-partisanship and attacks against journalists. Think about what this week was. This is the week President Trump called Stormy Daniels horse face, and then praised the body slamming of a journalist in Montana, and there were huge cheers for it. There's a lot to get through here and I want to bring in the one man who can help us do it, Carl Bernstein. Carl you've been saying to me this is — this is the war on truth. We are seeing a war on truth and is President Trump winning that war?
BERNSTEIN: It's not just President Trump who's winning that war, it's the forces of those who believe in untruth and paramount among those forces is Donald Trump in the way he looks at the world. Look, we have had presidents in the past who have lied. There's no question about that, but what we have never had is a President of the United States who uses lie and untruth as a basic method to promote his policies, his beliefs, and his way of approaching the American people and engaging with the world, that his default position is to use untruth to go toward his objectives.
And the best example of it in this horrible week in which we are dealing with the Khashoggi murder is the body-slamming incident where the President of the United States again repeating that the press is the enemy of the people, this horrible phrase with its echoes of totalitarianism gets up and praises a congressional candidate for body slamming a reporter in the same time period in which a reporter has been murdered, perhaps dismembered by an outlaw rogue state actor. So where does that put us on what side of the equation?
STELTER: You tell me. Where does it put us?
BERNSTEIN: I think where it puts us, first of all, is that uniquely we have a president who does not believe in truth as the force that ought to be our objective in policy and who we are as a people. This is far different than anything we have — we have experienced. But it also is as part of you know, Trump didn't invent this and we live in a time in which truth is devalued in all kinds of institutions and we have now this division not just among our people but through social media, through the press but. I want to suggest that particularly, news institutions and particularly on television cable news, that we need to be doing much more than just Trump lie catching.
The lie catching is easy but when Trump talks for instance about voter fraud as he did in a tweet last night and warned people against fraudulent voting, we need to be doing stories about the reality of whether or not there is widespread voter fraud. Let's look at the underlying questions as reporters and present real reporting in depth that examines the underlying issues.
STELTER: And there is not, there is not widespread voter fraud. We all -- I think most Americans know that and all the reporting backs up that, and yet the President you know, by tweeting it, what's he doing, Carl, is he engaging in a form of voter suppression?
BERNSTEIN: It certainly would appear that that is part of it. Also, I mean, I talked to people in the White House on — or in touch with the White House on Friday who believe that if the congressional midterms are very close and the Democrats were to win by five or seven seats that Trump is already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts, sow confusion, declare a victory, actually. And say that the election has been illegitimate, that that is really under discussion in the White House. I was told that on Friday. That too is a story we ought to be going after and I trust that really good reporters are going after that story.
But I want to get back to this war on truth it's not only Donald Trump. Let's look at Wells Fargo which and what happened at that institution employees from top to bottom engaged in fraud and trying to hide it. We have a different devalued look at truth perhaps than we have in previous times in our history especially in this country.
But one of the things about our country and the objectives in the post-war era of our policy, yes we have embraced terrible dictators before particularly during the Cold War in Latin America, in Africa all over the world just as we are watching the Trump administration embrace the Saudi leaders, but we also know that we have some leverage. And instead of trying to use that leverage immediately, Donald Trump and his family Don Jr. especially in his Trump's -- especially in his tweets trying to say that Khashoggi was an instrument of radical Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Again a war -- a war on truth, instead of saying hey this is the time for truth. Let us say to MBS you must have a thorough investigation and deliver the truth to the people of the world. Donald Trump's first instinct was to go to the cover story and that is what we have that is different in this President of in the United States than any previous president. The default is go to the cover story go to the lie. Go to that which is untrue. Go to that which is not scientific. Go to the birther question etcetera, etcetera. This is new territory of untruth.
STELTER: Carl Bernstein, you said it better than anybody could.