Mopping the slop

    Mild kudos to NBC News for mopping up its own slop. After first permitting reality TV star/leveraged real-estate huckster Donald Trump to pollute The Today Show with his toxic shtick about Barack Obama’s place of birth, the fact-checkers went to work – and they shredded Trump on The NBC Nightly News.In other words, NBC ultimately held him accountable. That doesn’t happen often enough on TV. It’s way too easy, especially on live interview shows, for guests to spout nonsense and escape unchallenged. Hosts are often prisoners of the format; trapped by time constraints, they can’t always challenge a lie in the moment it is unleashed, or even to sharply question a dubious assertion, no matter how well they have prepared themselves in advance. Even the best hosts, including the late Tim Russert, sometimes whiff in real time.So at least NBC sought last night to atone for its initial dumb decision to let Trump run wild in the morning and further endear himself to the willfully fact-deficient (in the latest Fox News Poll, 63 percent of Republicans say there is “cause to wonder” where Obama was born, and 62 percent of Republicans say they’d vote for Trump over Obama). But, hey, better late than never.Trump’s morning romp included a 9/11 whopper as well: “The terrorists, almost every single one of them, sent their families back a day early. You know they all went to Saudi Arabia.”But Lisa Myers, fact-checking in her Nightly News report, noted what has long been known: “There is no evidence that families of the 9/11 hijackers were in the United States. Some Bin Laden family members were flown out after the attack, after being screened by the FBI.”Then came the usual birther bilge. Trump said in the morning: “(Obama) has what is called a certificate of live birth…You look at it, it’s not even signed by anybody. It doesn’t have a serial number.”Myers, in the evening: “The certificate of live birth does have a serial number and a stamped signature” – visual shot of the certificate, with serial number and stamped signature – “and Hawaiian officials say it carries the weight of law…This document states Obama was born in Honolulu…and there is a birth announcement nine days after President Obama was born” – visual shot of newspaper birth announcement – “information the paper says would have come from the hospital.”Trump said in the morning: “His grandmother said he was born in Kenya.”Myers, in the evening, reported that the Kenya canard stems in part from a 2008 interview that was conducted in Kenya, through a translator, with the second wife of Obama’s grandfather. The translator initially quoted the step-grandmother as saying that she was present at Obama’s birth, but then corrected himself, stating emphatically three separate times that Obama was born in America. (Myers could have gone further and reported that the interviewer, an anti-Obama preacher named Ron McRae, was so excited about his faux scoop that the translator – in his third emphatic statement – had to virtually knock the guy upside the head. Translator: “Hawaii. Hawaii. Sir, she says he was born in Hawaii. In the state of Hawaii, where his father was also learning. The state of Hawaii.”)But let’s not laud NBC too lavishly for fact-checking Trump – because the network actually managed to have it both ways. It put one of its own stars on the air in the morning (Trump hosts Celebrity Apprentice), thereby allowing him to create the kind of buzz that potentially pays off in higher ratings. Then it cleaned up after him in time for the evening news junkies, thereby demonstrating fealty to journalism. NBC News worked the high road, NBC Universal worked the low road, and now Trump is promising revelations from his “investigators” in the field, which in turn would generate more buzz and more after-the-fact fact-checking.

    So everybody makes out. Is this a great country, or what?

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