Late last week, veteran blogger Andrew Sullivan wondered–loudly–when the American press was finally going to get the guts to publicly call out Donald Trump for his blatant lying. Well, apparently the message was received by at least one reporter. It resulted in one of the few watchable moments of Trump’s massive train wreck of a press conference on Thursday.
While boasting about his achievements over the first month of his administration, Trump couldn’t resist the urge to pat himself on the back for his upset victory.
“I’m here following through on what I pledged to do. That’s all I’m doing. I put it out before the American people. Got 306 Electoral College votes. I wasn’t supposed to get 222. They said there’s no way to get 222. 230 is impossible; 270, which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before. So that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.”
NBC News national correspondent Peter Alexander knew, as anyone who knows anything about American history knows, that this was simply not true. So when Trump took questions from reporters, Alexander didn’t take long to pounce. Watch what ensued here.
Alexander reminded Trump that George H. W. Bush got 426 electoral votes in 1988, and Barack Obama got 365 in 2008 and 332 in 2012. He asked Trump, “Why should Americans trust you when you’re misrepresenting information?” Trump tried to wriggle out of it. First, he said he was only referring to Republican presidents, then claimed he was “given that information” by an unnamed aide.
If Trump thought he was getting off easily, he was in for a surprise. Remembering that Trump had spent several minutes railing about how the media was peddling “fake news” about his supposed ties to Russia and the forced resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, Alexander moved in for the kill.
“Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they’re receiving of being fake, when you’re providing information that’s not accurate?”
Conventional wisdom suggested that Trump would have blown up at Alexander the way he blew up at CNN’s Jim Acosta in January. But he didn’t. He kept up the line that he won “a very substantial victory,” and asked Alexander if he agreed. An incredulous Alexander replied, “You’re the president.” It’s hard to blame Alexander. After all, rather than admit he or his aide got it wrong, Trump kept plowing through. Nothing in journalism school can prepare you for something like this.
Alexander’s refusal to let Trump wriggle out from under this whopper won him a lot of praise on Twitter.
"Why should Americans trust you?"
NBC's @PeterAlexander asking the key Q. Trump simply did not answer.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 16, 2017
Wow @PeterAlexander fact checks POTUS mid-press conference on blatantly false claim of historic electoral college margin
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 16, 2017
You are a hero for calling out the Electoral college lie at the press conference today! @PeterAlexander
— ALT- Immigration ? (@ALT_uscis) February 16, 2017
Give it up for NBC News' @PeterAlexander who called out the president on his electoral college lies. We need more like this
— Will Bunch (@Will_Bunch) February 16, 2017
What’s really telling, though, is what we have yet to see. You would have thought that being humiliated on national television would bring one of Trump’s patented rage tweets. Well, as I write this on Thursday night, he hasn’t mentioned Alexander once. More tellingly, neither have any of Trump’s Twitter acolytes. Maybe there really are only so many lies–er, alternative facts–that even the most diehard Trump loyalists can take.
(featured image courtesy DonkeyHotey, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)