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Dear Kellyanne Conway: The “Alternative” to a Fact Is a Falsehood

Or a lie, depending on the context.

We already talked a lot over the weekend about lies about Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd sizes (as well as some of the other terrible things he’s already done), but as this bizarre conversation continues to unfold, there’s still something worth addressing: the importance of the truth.

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Trump’s former campaign manager/handler Kellyanne Conway is still, for some reason, able to book appearances on news shows despite the fact that she uses that platform to push lies and berate the media. When Chuck Todd confronted her about Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s blatant lies over the weekend, she first tried to deflect by blaming reporters who inaccurately said that Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the oval office—a mistake that was rectified quickly. (For some context, people flipped out when a bust of Winston Churchill was moved during Obama’s time, so it’s not surprising the press was paying attention to what happened on that front as Trump moved in.)

Meanwhile, Spicer’s comments were not a mistake. He made several demonstrably false statements to paint Trump’s inauguration crowd in a better light (and downplay the Women’s March), despite it being a relatively unimportant conversation. Spicer’s comments also came directly, purposefully from the White House Press Secretary (himself), which is much more disturbing than a reporter getting something completely wrong.

Then, Conway tried another strange defense: Spicer was just presenting “alternative facts.” She also tried to claim that we should be focusing on actual policy, but the White House chose to focus on the crowd over the weekend. You don’t get to bring up a topic for the sole purpose of lying, as Spicer did, and then have your friends tell people who call you out that they’re focusing on the wrong topic. I’m glad Chuck Todd called her out on that kind of Orwellian nonsense, but it bears repeating: the alternative to a fact is a falsehood. When that falsehood is known to be false by the person saying it, but it’s stated anyway in the effort to sway people’s perception of reality, that makes it a lie.

Again, Trump’s inaugural crowd size is a fairly unimportant issue. It mattered for the few minutes the Internet poked fun at it and pointed out how it correlated with Trump’s poor popularity ratings and popular vote loss. It was useful to once again drive home the point that he’s got some ground to make up if he truly wants to represent the American people as he claims to—ground we don’t anticipate he has any interest in making up, despite empty words about it.

What’s important is that we are being lied to, straight from what is supposed to be the source. If there’s one thing Trump supporters get right, it’s that there’s an effort out there to push a certain point of view and shape reality in a particular way. However, when looking at who’s doing the lying in this situation, it’s clear that Spicer and Trump’s White House are the ones trying to change reality and insist that they have the support of the American people, when that’s simply not the case. They’ve already done this by claiming to have won the electoral college in a landslide, which is also patently false.

It’s not the media’s fault or Trump opponents’ fault that he lacks our support. He needs to earn it, and that’s not done by lying and berating people. The size of Trump’s inauguration crowd doesn’t matter. The fact that his administration chose to lie about it for no one’s benefit but their own matters.

(image via screengrab)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>

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