One of the reasons Joe Biden won the presidency is that he convinced voters he was nothing like Donald Trump.
Trump was brash; Biden was reserved. Trump was impulsive; Biden was cautious. Trump could be mean; Biden came across as a nice guy. Yet, despite their many differences, Donald Trump and Joe Biden have at least one thing in common: They both have a long-distance relationship with the truth.
In Trump’s case, journalists always were quick to point out his false statements. The New York Times, which sets the agenda for many other news organizations, even ran a piece under the headline, “Trump’s Lies.” That story began: “Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.”
Fair enough. Trump gave journalists plenty of ammunition – and the media should hold powerful people accountable for what they say. So how are those same journalists now treating President Biden’s false statements, of which there are many? Are they calling those “lies”?
On Feb.16 he told a CNN town hall program, “If we kept (the minimum wage) indexed to inflation, people would be making $20 an hour right now.” False again, says PolitiFact.
About a week before the election, Biden went on “60 Minutes” and said: “I can send every qualified person to a four-year college in their state for $150 billion.” His own campaign admitted he got that wrong, acknowledging that Biden’s free-public-college plan would actually cost – wait for it – double that amount.
When CNN decided to fact-check the new president, it felt compelled to point out that, while Biden got things wrong, he wasn’t as bad as Trump, who the network bashed virtually nonstop for four years. “Biden was not remotely comparable to former President Donald Trump in either the quantity of his false claims or in the magnitude. He did, however, make some inaccurate comments, mostly when ad-libbing,” is how CNN delicately put it.
But the truth is that Biden has made so many inaccurate statements that even the BBC got in on the fact-checking act. “When I took office just three weeks ago, this country did not have a plan or enough vaccines,” Biden said. Replied the BBC: “But it’s not correct to say the US ‘did not have a plan’ under Mr. Trump.”
President Biden also said that “I do think that we should have a minimum wage … at $15 an hour … and all the economics show if you do that, the whole economy rises.” To which the BBC responded: “But there are other studies which say the increased wage costs could result in businesses hiring fewer people.”
And, according to FactCheck.org, at his first formal news conference on March 23, “President Joe Biden got some facts wrong.” Here’s a short list of only a few of those facts that FactCheck says he got wrong:
- “Biden claimed that former President Donald Trump ‘eliminated’ over $700 million in aid that Biden helped get for Central American countries. That didn’t happen.”
- “The president used the wrong statistics when saying that ‘nothing has changed’ regarding ‘children’ trying to enter the U.S. at the southern border. There was a significant 63 percent uptick in unaccompanied children being apprehended from January to February.”
- “He repeated two familiar talking points on taxes, including the misleading claim that ’83 percent’ of the benefits in the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are ‘going to the top 1 percent.’ That only becomes the case in 2027 when most of the individual income tax cuts are set to expire but corporate tax cuts remain.”
And when former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) went on ABC’s “This Week” and actually uttered the “L word” – accusing President Biden of “lying” about his nearly $2 trillion infrastructure package, saying it goes way beyond building roads and bridges – he got blowback from the show’s anchor, former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos, who argued that Biden’s proposal has widespread support, including from Republicans and independents.
“So here’s what’s not popular,” Christie replied. “Lying is not popular. It’s not infrastructure, George.” Stephanopoulos responded: “Do you really want to use the word ‘lie’ there?”
“Let’s just be fair here,” said Christie. “If Donald Trump had come out and called a dog a cat, which is what Joe Biden’s doing, we would be outraged by the fact that he’s lying. But with Joe Biden, somehow it’s like, ‘Oh, well, come on, it’s Joe.’ No, no, no, no. It’s not true.”
At one point Stephanopoulos meekly added, “He [Biden] did make some misstatements about the bill.”
So here are a few questions: When do numerous “misstatements” become lies? When will the New York Times publish a story under the headline, “Biden’s Lies”? And the most important questions: When will so-called mainstream journalists stop taking sides? When will they stop supporting the Democratic Party and start doing their jobs?
Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.
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.