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The crucial importance of telling the truth in journalism: Dave Lange

LAKEWOOD, Ohio – The recent wiretapping and subsequent firing of former Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel as a contributor to NBC News raises a good question. How big a lie is it to ban someone from working as a news reporter or commentator?

When asked by CNN host Chris Wallace in July 2023 when she was no longer an “election denier,” McDaniel admitted that Joe Biden ultimately won the 2020 presidential election. But she insisted: ‘I don’t think he won fairly. Not me. I’m not going to say that.”

In fact, McDaniel should be acutely aware of the fact that absolutely no evidence has been presented to support her claims of election fraud. Even partisan GOP battleground polls say former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 loss failed to uncover anything that could have changed the results.

Unlike Trump’s fact-challenged loyalists, McDaniel knows better. After her resignation from party leadership last March, she revealed in an interview with the press: “If you’re chairman of the RNC, you take one for the whole team, right?”

That’s right, if you’re an election denier, it’s okay to be a liar.

But is it okay for liars to be active in the news business?

Notorious counterfeiter Janet Cooke won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her Washington Post story “Jimmy’s World” about an 8-year-old heroin addict. Not only was her story about “needle marks freckled the baby-smooth skin of his thin brown arms” a fabrication, but her previous employer, the Toledo Blade, exposed her lies about college degrees. After Cooke confessed to the fiction, the Pulitzer was returned, Cooke resigned from the Post and was banned from journalism for good.

Falsification can be extremely costly, as Fox “News” (my quotes) showed a year ago in its $787.5 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. Evidence in the case showed that Fox owners, executives and producers knew full well that none of the network’s claims about Dominion voting machines switching votes to influence the 2020 election were true.

Former Fox commentator Tucker Carlson has claimed that his firing shortly after the settlement was part of the deal with Dominion Voting Systems. But other Fox commentators, including Maria Bartiromo, who played a bigger role in pushing Dominion fraud claims, remain on board.

McDaniel’s release by NBC, just four days after she announced she would be hired to provide “expert insight and analysis,” followed intense criticism of the network’s liberal division.

MSNBC host Joy Reid said McDaniel “literally supported an illegal scheme to steal elections in the state of Michigan.” A recorded phone call revealing that plan was reported by the Detroit News shortly after the 2020 election.

Fellow MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said McDaniel is “still trying to convince Americans that this election stuff isn’t really working. That these elections were not a real result. That American elections are fraudulent.”

Even MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, a Republican who was White House communications director during George W. Bush’s presidency, and Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, opposed McDaniel’s addition to the NBC network.

In February 2015, Brian Williams, editor-in-chief and anchor of NBC Nightly News, was suspended without pay for six months from the position he had held since 2004. This action stemmed from repeated false claims by Williams over the years that while covering the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was aboard a military helicopter that was struck by ground fire and crashed. He eventually recanted that delusion after it was debunked by several military members who were there.

Dave Lange, a retired editor with a master’s degree in political science, is a member of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame and author of the memoir “Virginity Lost in Vietnam.” He writes from Lakewood.

However, four months later, Williams was rehired as the breaking news anchor for MSNBC. He left when his contract expired in 2021.

Sure, some lies are bigger than others. But more than 200 journalists and media supporters actually died pursuing the truth in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fortunately, truth-seeking journalists remain committed to American democracy today.

Dave Lange, a retired editor with a master’s degree in political science, is a Vietnam veteran and a member of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. He is the author of the memoir: “Lost virginity in Vietnam.”

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