STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The other day, The New York Times published a story. It examined the way that Donald Trump's presidential campaign promoted his tax plan. Trump had offered a big tax break to businesses. His campaign told a leading business group that he supported the tax break, and he got their endorsement. Then his campaign told independent budget analysts he was against the same tax break. The point of this story for our purposes here is that the Times called this a lie - specifically, the trillion-dollar lie. The Times is using that word lie quite often in its coverage of Donald Trump, so we've called Dean Baquet, who is the paper's editor, to talk about its coverage of the Republican candidate.
Welcome to the program.
DEAN BAQUET: Thank you so much. Good to be here.
INSKEEP: Has something changed in the way you cover and write about Donald Trump?
BAQUET: Yes. Yes. The simple answer is yes. Politicians often exaggerate their records, obfuscate, say they did something great when they - when it wasn't so great. I think in the last few weeks, he sort of crossed a little bit of a line. For me, the moment was the birther story, where he - he has repeated for years his belief that President Obama was not born in the United States. That's not an obfuscation, and that's not an exaggeration. I think that was just demonstrably a lie, and I think that lie is not a word that newspapers use comfortably.
INSKEEP: Sure. And let's talk about why that is. When I think about the word lie, it seems to me different than even saying something is false or wrong because when you say lie, you are suggesting you know the person intentionally told an untruth. You feel...
INSKEEP: ...You know their mind.
BAQUET: And I think that was the case with birther. I mean, I just - I think to say that that was a falsehood wouldn't have captured the duration of his claim - to be frank, the outrageousness of his claim. I think to have called it just a falsehood would have put it in the category of usual political fare, where politicians say, you know, my tax plan will save a billion dollars but it's actually half a billion and...
BAQUET: ...They're using the wrong analysis - this was something else. And I think we owed it to our readers to just call it out for what it was.
INSKEEP: Some analysts have said they feel the tone of media coverage about Trump has changed since the Republican convention - since he clinched the nomination. Have you done anything differently since then?
BAQUET: I don't think so. I think that we've done a tremendous amount of investigative reporting about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And I don't think the tone has changed for us. I mean, I think we're in a remarkably partisan moment, where people who don't like Donald Trump feel like the media is not doing enough about him. I think that's just wrong. I think that people who don't like Donald Trump honestly believe that if people knew what they knew, saw what they saw, understood what they saw, that people couldn't possibly support Donald Trump. I think that's demonstrably false.
INSKEEP: Are you telling people how to think?
BAQUET: No. No. I think that this just so - it would almost be illiterate (laughter) to have not called the birther thing a lie.
INSKEEP: The reason I ask about that is because NPR, at the moment, has come up with a slightly different formulation. And the senior vice president of news wrote, (reading) we give citizens the information they need to make the choices the democracy asks them to make. We should not be telling you how to think. We should give you the information to decide what you think.
Do you think you're following that same standard when you call Trump a liar?
BAQUET: I think that - I think I'm using the same standard. I'm just using a different word. I think I'm using a more accurate word.
INSKEEP: How would you describe Hillary Clinton's relationship with the truth?
BAQUET: (Laughter) I think all politicians obfuscate, exaggerate, etc. I think that that's what I would say about Hillary Clinton and most other politicians.
INSKEEP: Have you been using the word lie very much with Hillary Clinton?
BAQUET: I don't think Hillary Clinton, to be honest, has crossed the line the way Donald Trump did with the birther issue.
INSKEEP: Dean Baquet of The New York Times.
Thanks very much.
BAQUET: Thank you so much.
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