Welcome to the world of alternative facts. Remember when Stephen Colbert first introduced us to the concept of “truthiness?” Back then, it was a humorous take down of the way the George W. Bush administration would skew facts to represent their stated cause or goal.
Well, thanks to the election of President Trump we’ve moved beyond truthiness to straight up lies as a matter of public policy. Or, what his administration is now apparently calling Alternative Facts.
The day after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer used his first official interaction with reporters to attack them for reporting the truth about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowds, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to defend the move.
“If we’re going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms I think we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here,” Conway said in a tone more appropriate to an autocratic dictatorship than a spokesperson for the leader of the free world. And things only got worse from there.
Host Chuck Todd responded by noting that Spicer is no longer just a campaign spokesman for candidate Trump, “He also serves as the spokesperson for all of America at times.”
“Why put him out there for the very first time in front of that camera to utter a provable falsehood?” Todd asked, saying that doing so, “undermines the credibility of the entire White House Press Office on day one.”
Conway fired back, saying, “Don’t be so overly dramatic. You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”
Todd seemed genuinely shocked by the claim. After regaining his composure, the longtime political journalist said, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”
Perhaps knowing she was standing on incredibly shaky ground, Trump’s former campaign manager then attempted to shift the conversation to attacking the record of the Obama Administration and the people who took part in this weekend’s Women’s March on Washington.
After letting Conway finish her diversion, Todd simply steered the conversation back to the point at hand, stating, “You sent the press secretary out there to utter a falsehood on the smallest, pettiest thing and I don’t understand why you did it.”
That clip has been viewed more than 10 million times in less than 24 hours on Facebook alone. And part of that groundswell of attention has to be a promising first sign that even as we accustom ourselves to the fact that Donald Trump is our president, that doesn’t mean we have to accept lies as truth, or even refer to them in the polite Washington parlance of “falsehoods.”