Before we assess Mike Pence’s sickening defense of baseless lies, let’s review what happened yesterday when a locked ‘n’ loaded lunatic walked into a hip pizza shop in Washington, D.C.
Edgar Maddison Welch had driven up from North Carolina. After firing his assault weapon inside the shop, Welch was quickly captured. He told police that he had heard — via the fake news grapevine — that the pizza proprietors had conspired with Bill and Hillary Clinton to run a child sex slave ring. In recent weeks the proprietors had received thousands of threats from suckered deplorables, but yesterday’s incident was by far the worst. Parents and kids fled the shop in fear for their lives. According to police, Welch had weaponized himself because he wanted to “self-investigate” the fake story.
See, this is what happens when viral lies twist tender minds. I’m not suggesting that Donald Trump personally sent this particular basket case to the pizza shop, but it just so happens that Trump’s future national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did his best to circulate the pizza shop lie, tweeting on Nov. 2 about Hillary’s supposed “Sex Crimes w Children,” and calling that fake story a “must read.” And last night, Flynn’s son (an advisor to dad) falsely tweeted that the pizza shop yarn is legit.
At minimum, it would be nice if the new leaders set a good example and sought to reassure the rational public that it respects the chasm that separates facts from lies. Kids should feel safe sitting in a nice pizza shop on a Sunday afternoon. But alas, 46.2 percent of the voters have empowered the post-truthers. Trump’s water boys have decreed that, from this moment forward, what matters most is not what is true, but what is believed.
Which brings us to Mike Pence. On ABC News yesterday, the next veep was confronted with Trump’s baseless lie that three million people “voted illegally” on election day. I’ll give you the Q&A. Don’t read it on a full stomach.
Q: “That claim [about three million illegal votes] is groundless. There’s no evidence to back it up. Is it responsible for a president-elect to make false statements like that?”
A: “Well, look, four years ago, the Pew Research Center found that there were millions of inaccurate voter registrations around the country.”
Q: “[Trump’s] statement is false. Why is it responsible to make it?”
A: “Well, I think the president-elect wants to call into attention the fact that there has been evidence over many years of voter fraud, and expressing that reality, Pew found evidence of that four years ago. It’s certainly his right.”
Q: “It’s his right to make false statements?”
A: “Well, it’s his right to express his opinion as president-elect of the United States. I think one of the things that’s refreshing about our president-elect and one of the reasons I think he made such an incredible connection with people across the country is because he tells you what’s on his mind.”
Q: “But why is it ‘refreshing’ to make false statements?”
A: “Look, I don’t know that that is a false statement, and neither do you.”
Q: “I know there’s no evidence for it.”
A: “There is evidence, historic evidence from the Pew Research Center that voter fraud has taken place.”
Q: “But can you provide any evidence to back up that statement [about 3 million illegal votes on Election Day]”?
A: “Well, look, I think he’s expressed his opinion on that. And he’s entitled to express his opinion on that. And I think the American people find it very refreshing that they have a president who will tell them what’s on his mind— “
Q: “Whether it’s true or not?”
A: “He’s going to say what he believes to be true, and I know that he’s always going to speak in that way as president.”
There you have it: A defense of lies from the guy who will be a heartbeat away. Not once did he cite a scintilla of proof that three million people voted illegally on Election Day. No such evidence exists, and, indeed, there is no evidence that voter fraud has ever occurred on remotely that scale, ever.
Regarding the 3 million people falsehood, I especially loved when he said, “I don’t know that that is a false statement, and neither do you.” That’s called sophistry. That’s like you believing that your next-door neighbor might’ve killed his family overnight; you didn’t see him doing it, but on the other hand, you didn’t not see him doing it either.
Meanwhile, Pence defended lying with a serial lie of his own. He repeatedly said that the Pew Research Center, in a 2012 report, discovered past evidence of voter fraud. Dead wrong. David Becker, the primary author of that Pew report, tweeted weeks ago that Pew had merely discovered out-of-date voter registration lists — which are “much more accurate now than when we issued that study in 2012.” Most importantly: “The report made no findings re voter fraud.”
Worst of all, however, was Pence’s prediction: Trump as president “is going to say what he believes to be true,” regardless of whether belief syncs with fact. That soft endorsement of fakery is a boon to the nutbags who swallow Internet slop; fakery inspired the pizza shop sleuth to arm himself to the teeth, and I doubt he will be the last. How “refreshing.”