NPR Explains Why It Doesn’t Label Some Donald Trump Statements ‘Lies’

Donald Trump

An NPR News executive explained on Wednesday why reporters have avoided using the word “lie” in describing President Donald Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud in the election.

“Our job as journalists is to report, to find facts, and establish their authenticity and share them with everybody,” Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news, said on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “It’s really important that people understand that these aren’t our opinions. … These are things we’ve established through our journalism, through our reporting … and I think the minute you start branding things with a word like ‘lie,’ you push people away from you.”

Other news organizations, like the New York Times, did use that term, and NPR acknowledged that there was some debate within its newsroom.

While reporting on Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday, in which the president said that the media created the riff between himself and intelligence agencies, NPR News’ Mary Louise Kelly said the claim was “provably not true,” but refrained from using the word “lie.”

She pointed to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of lie — a false statement made with intent to deceive. “Without the ability to peer into Donald Trump’s head, I can’t tell you what his intent was,” she said.

Update: Oreskes issued a statement with additional comments. “I have been in journalism for more than  forty years. It’s my editorial judgement that use of the word lie has not been necessary to fully communicate the facts of the situation so far. That’s my judgement as a journalist and my decision as editorial director.  Our job is to report and present the facts. That’s what gives our audiences the information they need to be good citizens. They are as capable as we are of judging the meaning of those facts. Many have concluded that those facts mean the president has lied. They seem to be the ones pressing for us to use the word. But if they’ve reached that judgement why do they need us to say it for them?”

There were also reports last week that the Trump transition team was mulling a budget plan that would privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding to NPR stations. An NPR spokeswoman said that “funding has absolutely nothing to do with the editorial decision-making process in the NPR newsroom.”

Clarification: Mary Louise Kelly quote was corrected to read that the claim was “provably not true,” not “probably not true.”