Preventing misinformation is similar to treating a health virus, according to Daniel Dale, a Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star and self-proclaimed Trump fact-checker.
Dale said journalists can treat the misinformation virus by fact-checking politicians and holding them accountable, even if it means calling the president of the United States a liar.
“If you don’t interrupt the transmission right away, it’s going to stick for a long, long time,” Dale said during the annual Dalton Camp lecture in journalism at St. Thomas University on March 21.
His lecture titled, “Reporting on Trump and the Truth,” focused on his experience reporting on former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and U.S. president Donald Trump.
While the term “false claims” can be used when journalists don’t know the intent of a politician, who might sometimes make mistakes, Dale said it’s important for news outlets to allow their journalists to use the word “lie” when it’s appropriate.
“One of the first times I use the word lying in print was after that time the mayor of Toronto ran at me, threatened to punch me, called the cops and then accused me of being a pedophile.”
Dale, 34, has more than 550,000 Twitter followers and has fact-checked more than 4,000 of Trump’s lies since Sept. 2016.
Dale is disturbed by two types of lies: ones that undermine faith in democracy and ones that promote tension and hate toward minority groups, particularly Muslims and Hispanics.
“I think this is really corrosive to people’s faith in the democratic system,” said Dale.
In July 2017, Dale said Trump attended the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia where he rallied against Democrats in front of children. After backlash from the public, Trump claimed the leader of the Boy Scouts called him and said it was the “greatest speech that was ever made.”
Dale emailed the Boy Scouts for verification and they confirmed Trump was lying and the White House had to backtrack – by claiming the Boy Scouts complimented the president in person, which was another lie.
“In any other situation, we would call that a lie,” Dale said.
“I don’t understand why we should have to dance around it as objective journalists … truth is not a sideshow, it’s often the show.”