President Trump, speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)

Is it fair to call the president of the United States a liar?

This is the question plaguing many journalists and politicians, who struggle to deal with the misinformation spread by President Trump and his administration on an almost daily basis.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recently took to Twitter to detail Trump’s lies to the public, after Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping his phones:

Amber Phillips of The Washington Post was displeased with Sanders’ choice of words and argued that the series of tweets highlights the “sorry state of political discourse right now.”

Phillips writes:

This is the state of our political discourse right now. Political norms — like, don’t accuse the president of the United States of lying without evidence, or don’t accuse the former president of the United States of wiretapping your phones without evidence — have been eviscerated. There are no rules right now in politics about what you can/can’t or should/shouldn’t say. …

Here’s the problem with using the “L” word in politics, though. To say someone’s lying suggests that you know they don’t believe what they’re saying.

She continues, noting that “it’s possible Trump believes the allegations he’s making” and “that is why we in the media are careful not to call Trump a ‘liar.’ ”

Sanders expanded on the debate in an essay published on Medium, in which he begins by referencing Phillips’ criticism.

Sanders writes:

I find it interesting that Ms. Phillips did not take issue with my facts. Her complaint appears to be that it is improper for a United States senator to state the obvious. And that is that we have a president who either lies intentionally or, even more frighteningly, does not know the difference between lies and truth.

Noting that he and Trump regularly have “strong policy disagreements,” Sanders explains that his choice of the word “lie” goes beyond the normal political process. He concludes:

But how do we deal with a president who makes statements that reverberate around our country and the world that are not based on fact or evidence? What is the appropriate way to respond to that? And if the media and political leaders fail to call lies what they are, are they then guilty of misleading the public?

As of Wednesday afternoon, Sanders’ essay has generated over 400 responses. We’d like to hear from our readers, too. Should we openly label Trump a liar and call out his “lies,” as Sanders has, or should we avoid the term out of respect to the office of the president?

Let us know in the poll below. One vote per person, please. (Make your selection, then click on “Vote.” To see results of the polling, click on “Results.”)

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Should we label President Trump a liar?
Yes, avoiding the term misleads the public and Trump should be held accountable.
No, it is disrespectful to President Trump and his administration.

—Posted by Emma Niles


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