Pop Culture’s Acceptable and Unacceptable Lies

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the Emmy Awards, September 17, 2017. (Reuters photo: Mario Anzuoni)
The media eagerly echoed Obama’s lies about the Iran deal. But they’re tough truth-tellers on the controversy of crowd size.

Liberals think the Emmy Awards “normalized” Sean Spicer’s lying for Trump, but they forget how their echo chamber aided Barack Obama’s Iran Deal deceptions.

In the partisan culture wars, no quarter is to be given, not even in the cause of humor. That’s the verdict many liberal mainstream media voices delivered on one segment of the Emmy Awards show broadcast on Sunday. While critics had no problem with Stephen Colbert’s smug, self-satisfied partisan turns as the master of ceremonies, letting former White House spokesman Sean Spicer have another few minutes of celebrity was a bridge too far.

The skit with Spicer was the most talked-about aspect of the insufferable epic of self-congratulation and Trump-bashing. But it was panned by a wide array of media and political columnists because the joke “normalized” the satanic enterprise that is the Trump administration — by giving air time to one of his minor imps. Letting Spicer joke about lying on Trump’s behalf was too much for the media to take.

Yet, as another group of pampered and self-satisfied celebrities prepared to gather in New York City this week — the General Assembly of the United Nations — it never occurred to their cultural counterparts on the left coast that they had spent the previous eight years happily applauding Barack Obama’s lies. With President Trump seeking to re-open the debate about Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, it’s worth remembering the role the same media played in that debacle. The very people who cannot stomach Spicer were loyal members of what Obama aide Ben Rhodes called the “echo chamber” that spread that administration’s lies about the nuclear pact; these lies are far more consequential than anything Spicer ever said in his brief tenure as the White House press secretary.

The outrage about Spicer speaks volumes about the level of intolerance for all things Trump in the pop-culture world.

After all, Spicer wasn’t there to provide any counterpoint to the relentless dumping on Trump that was the theme of nearly all the skits and the comments from winners throughout the evening. He was actually there to throw his former boss under the bus by mocking the first but not the last falsehood that came out of the Trump White House: the fable that his swearing-in ceremony was the best-attended inauguration in history. But even that memory of the first big fib told by the administration was too much for liberals such as CNN’s Chris Cillizza and the New York Times’ Frank Bruni, who denounced the harmless bit of drollery as “enabled” lying to the public and “shameful.” Lying to the American people, even about something as trivial as that, is not a laughing matter.

Would that the same gaggle of scolds had been equally upset about all those who enabled Rhodes in his effort to sell the disastrous Iran deal to the public. Rhodes, the former deputy national-security adviser for strategic affairs, was arrogant enough to brag — on the record — that his deceptions were treated as gospel by mainstream media outlets, including the news reporters and columnists from CNN and the New York Times. With the help of the enabling media, Rhodes peddled a lie: that Obama’s signature foreign-policy achievement actually ended the nuclear threat from Iran.

Rhodes bragged — on the record — that his deceptions were treated as gospel by mainstream media outlets, including the news reporters and columnists from the Washington Post and the New York Times.

As Rhodes helpfully explained in an all-too-revealing May 8, 2016, New York Times Magazine profile, the members of the legacy print and broadcast media weren’t so much gullible as they were both willing and eager to be played by him. The mainstream media’s fawning coverage of Obama was the rule rather than the exception during his eight years in office, but the media was particularly sycophantic in its treatment of the Iran deal.

Obama’s assertions that the deal would enable Iran to “get right with the world,” in spite of Iran’s openly proclaimed goal of waging war on the West and eradicating Israel. But far more damaging was the echo chamber’s parroting of the claims from various administration figures that nuclear inspections would take place anytime and anywhere the international community suspected cheating. The assertion that the deal ended the nuclear threat from Iran was repeated endlessly in the media. This was despite the fact that the pact allowed Tehran to keep its nuclear program and its advanced research capability and even though the deal had a sunset clause that gave it the ability to go nuclear after a decade, with the permission of the West.

Denouncing Spicer and some of the ridiculous things that came out of his and Trump’s mouth is easy work for the press. But it’s a heavier lift to debunk Rhodes’s lies about the Iran deal — evidently beyond the media’s capacity. Worse than that, no matter how false the Obama administration’s story about Iran has proved to be, it has never generated nearly as much outrage as the fury that liberal talking heads still feel about Spicer.

This is especially important now as Trump grapples with the question of how to improve — or discard — the Iran deal. Rhodes’s main talking points are about to be trotted out again by the same echo chamber Obama counted on: 1) The only alternative to appeasement of Iran’s nuclear ambition is war, and 2) the rest of the world will never tolerate a truly tough-minded approach to halting Tehran’s program. Nor will we hear much about how the soft-soap the country was sold on Iran played a major role in enriching Iran — the nation Obama’s own State Department claimed was the world’s leading sponsor of terror. Nor will the media talk much about how Obama’s pullout from Iraq and his refusal to act in Syria have enabled the ayatollahs to acquire what is, for all intents and purposes, a land bridge from Tehran to its Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries on the Mediterranean.

The media ought to hold Trump accountable for lying over things both great and small. But after years of Obama’s Iran-deal echo chamber, we should be spared the high dudgeon about Spicer. By the time Spicer became a whipping boy for Trump, the mainstream media had already enabled far more dangerous lies from Obama and his minions.


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