The Truth Will Always Matter
Shepard Smith worked for Fox News since its founding in 1996. When he announced on air last week that he was quitting, he told his viewers: “Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism -- and journalists -- will thrive.”
Smith was speaking for legions of journalists who share his faith that their relentless coverage of the president will give voters the information they need to decide next year whether Trump deserves a second term. But his words go far beyond journalism, and include many other professionals whose devotion to the truth remains firm, even in this polarized climate.
In recent days, Smith’s credo has been echoed by judges, diplomats and prosecutors, who have sent a stunning and striking message to this president: We will hold you accountable for your actions. No one is above the law or beyond the norms of civilized behavior.
But in holding the president accountable, it’s critically important that all these professionals -- and especially journalists -- don’t see themselves as part of “The Resistance” to Trump. That’s for the politicians and the ideologues who view the world through a partisan lens.
The professional code is different: You find the facts. You serve the country and the Constitution, not a party or a president. Or a presidential candidate, for that matter. Your credibility depends on your fierce devotion to fairness.
Take Glenn Kessler, the highly esteemed fact-checker at The Washington Post. He has rigorously documented more than 13,500 “false and misleading” claims made by Trump during just 1,000 days in office. If that makes him sound like an adversary of this president, The Lord of the Lies, so be it. But his loyalty is to reality -- measurable, describable, verifiable reality.
Shep Smith followed the same code at Fox, and so do some others. The anchor of the network’s Sunday show, Chris Wallace, called Trump’s account of his Ukraine policy “astonishing and ... deeply misleading.” And daytime host Martha MacCallum said of the president, “Contrary to the opinion of some people, he’s not our boss.”
First among those misinformed people is Trump himself, who profoundly misunderstands the principles of professional ethics, demanding total loyalty to himself personally. As Fox figures like Smith criticized his behavior, the president lamented, “@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore.”
Those pressures finally got to be too much for Smith, but other fact-finders remain undaunted and undeterred. In a single day, three different federal judges rebuffed the president’s cruel attempt to bar immigrants from seeking legal status if they’ve ever relied on public assistance.
In New York, District Judge George B. Daniels called the policy “repugnant to the American Dream.” In Spokane, Washington, Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson said the administration had acted “in an arbitrary and capricious manner” in formulating the new rule. In California, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton warned Trump that the law, not politics, should “govern who may enter” the country.
Here in Washington, a circuit court panel decided 2 to 1 that Trump’s accounting firm must give Congress eight years’ worth of his business records. Their ruling, which has been stayed pending appeal, reaffirmed the opinion of District Judge Amit P. Mehta, who had written, “It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct.”
The courage of these judges has been mirrored by professional diplomats who refute Trump’s version of events in Ukraine. Marie Yovanovich told Congress she was forced out of her post as ambassador to Kiev by corrupt Trump cronies who were pursuing personal profit. (Prosecutors charged two of those cronies with making illegal campaign contributions, and had them arrested as they tried to flee the country.)
As reported by the Post: “Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president,” the ousted envoy told a closed-door hearing, “I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Trump’s abuse of career professionals has “hollowed out” the State Department, she argued, and she called on fellow diplomats to defend their institution against his attacks: “I fear that not doing so will harm our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably.”
This president has placed our nation’s interests in grave peril on many fronts. But the fact-finders continue their vital work, deeply convinced that “the truth will always matter.” And they’re right.
(Steven Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)