Why isn’t it a ‘lie’ when Joe Biden says something false or dishonest?

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It’s not unusual for acquaintances to ask me if what they just heard on the news or read online is true. Did such-and-such really happen? Did so-and-so really say what they heard attributed to him on the news? These people aren’t paranoid. Unfortunately, they’re asking legitimate questions. Many journalists, for a while now, haven’t been shy about revealing their biases. So who knows if what my friends just heard on TV or read in a news story is really true?

I’ve been a full-time working journalist since the late 1960s — and even I don’t know what to believe anymore. 

But journalists aren’t the only ones who make us doubt the information we’re getting from people in important places. Donald Trump didn’t invent “fake news” or fake information, but you could make a case — and his detractors pretty much have — that he made Pinocchio look like Honest Abe by comparison.

In a free country such as ours, dishonesty at the highest levels of government is no small thing.  If we can’t trust the president, how do we know what to believe? How do we know what our government is really up to? People in power must be held accountable in a democracy — but that’s not easy when you don’t know what’s true and what isn’t.

And unless you were asleep during the Trump presidency, you surely noticed that there was no hesitation on the part of journalists to call out his misstatements. How many times, when they weren’t describing what he said as an outright “lie,” did they report that he had “no evidence” to back up whatever he had just said? How many times did they say his words were “false or misleading”?

Actually, that’s not a rhetorical question. The Washington Post counted those times and concluded that Trump’s “false or misleading claims total 30,573 over four years.”  

One of the reasons Trump lost his re-election bid is that the American people were tired — not only of the daily chaos and his non-stop tweets, but they knew he made up a lot of things and they lost trust in him. They wanted a change. 

So, what did we get with Joe Biden? Honesty? Accuracy? The truth? Or just more of the same?

On the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Biden assured us that “if there’s American citizens left (on Aug. 31), we’re gonna stay to get them all out.” That wasn’t true. 

He told us that he planned for every contingency in the lead-up to our departure. It didn’t look that way in the events that played out on television.

He told us that our allies had no problem with our hasty departure from Afghanistan. That wasn’t true, either. 

Before that, Biden told us that the surging number of migrants we were witnessing at our country’s southern border was nothing out of the ordinary. It was way out of the ordinary, however.

He told us that he “wouldn’t demand that [COVID vaccines] be mandatory.” That was before he thought they should be mandatory.

He assured us that if we were vaccinated, the chances were near zero that we would get sick enough to have to be hospitalized. Then he said the unvaccinated are a danger to those of us who have been vaccinated. This raises a question: “Huh?”

That’s just a sampling of President Biden’s misinformation. No, he’s no threat to Donald Trump’s record of false and misleading statements. But Biden has been in office less than a year.  Give the man time. 

And unless you’ve been asleep for the past four years or so, you’ve surely noticed that journalists aren’t calling Biden out the way they called out his predecessor. No major mainstream news organization has said he “lied” when he went on national TV and said that none of America’s allies complained about our chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. I haven’t heard any liberal journalist say that Biden had “no evidence” when he said COVID-19 was on the wane.

When Donald Trump misled the American people, the media somberly told us that he was a “threat to democracy.” When Biden misleads the American people it’s because … well, you know, that’s simply Joe being Joe.

There’s a price to pay for dishonesty and President Biden is paying it. His poll numbers are down. Some leaders around the world surely have lost trust in what he says. His dishonesty threatens to harm America’s credibility around the world.

I was watching CNN the other morning and they aired one story after another bashing their favorite villain, Donald Trump. They can blame Trump for his long-distance relationship with the truth; fair enough. But they can’t blame him for Joe Biden’s lies — which, of course, to many liberal journalists are simply honest mistakes.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

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