It is an established fact -- fact: "a piece of information presented as having objective reality" -- that President Donald Trump says lots and lots of things that aren't true. (More than 3,000 in his first 500 days in office, according to The Washington Post's Fact Checker.)
Steve Bannon isn't a big facts guy, apparently. The former head of Breitbart News and former chief strategist in the Trump White House told ABC's Jon Karl over the weekend that he has *never* known Trump to lie or even say something that misleads.
KARL: Now you famously kept the white board of presidential promises to keep track of what he was keeping. That is a promise he obviously broke. He has not always told the truth.
BANNON: I don't know that.
BANNON: From what I see is, he has. This is another thing to demonize him.
KARL: The President's never lied?
BANNON: Not to my knowledge, no.
KARL: He says things that are not true all the time.
BANNON: I don't believe that.
KARL: Come on.
BANNON: I think he speaks in a particular vernacular that connects to people in this country.
Where to begin?
I find it impossible to believe that Bannon actually believes what he is saying here. He is a smart guy. (You can disagree with how he uses that intellect, but he is a bright man.) And it is objectively impossible to believe that Trump has always told the truth. You can love Trump and acknowledge that he didn't have the largest inauguration crowd in American history. Or that Muslims weren't celebrating on the roofs in northern New Jersey on September 11, 2001. Or that Ted Cruz's father may have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Or one of a thousand, literally, other things Trump has said that are demonstrably false.
What is Bannon up to then?
Simply put: Weaponizing the idea of truth.
The most important line from Bannon is this one: "I think [Trump] speaks in a particular vernacular that connects to people in this country." What he is trying to do with that sentence is cast Trump's lies, distortions and untruths as a class differentiator. What the elites -- like those in the media -- view as lies from Trump are regarded as truths, or at least something short of lies, by the average Joe out there in the country. (Why Bannon, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, considers himself able to channel the feelings of the working man is, um, sort of odd.)
See, it's not about Trump not telling the truth. It's about elites saying he isn't telling the truth. And if you hate elitists and believe they are out to get Trump, then his lies become, in a remarkably twisted calculation, hard truths. It's the "enemy of my enemy" theory of facts.
The issue with that line of thinking is that facts aren't up for debate. They just are.
But not to the likes of Bannon, who sees defending Trump from charges of lying as just another battle in the broader attempt to bring down the coastal elites and the power structure they purportedly defend and perpetuate.
This may not seem like dangerous stuff to you. Who listens to Bannon anymore, you might ask yourself? But don't be fooled: Bannon remains an influential voice within some decent-sized chunk of the Trump base. And he continues to play an active role in Trump's broader assault on truth. And that is no minor matter.
- Steve Bannon says Donald Trump has never lied. Yes, really.
- Donald Trump 1, Steve Bannon 0
- Breitbart after Steve Bannon
- Donald Trump just took a flamethrower to Steve Bannon
- Steve Bannon's shameful dog whistle
- Read Trump's official statement about Steve Bannon
- Steve Bannon may just be right
- Steve Bannon stepping down from Breitbart
- Scaramucci: Steve Bannon was a 'bad hire'
- Did Steve Bannon get this half right?