The Trump administration's alternate reality meets actual reality, and it doesn't know what to do.
The Trump administration's strategy of delegitimizing the free press hit a snag this weekend when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to prove that Trump was misquoted, but provided audio showing the opposite.
Donald Trump's interview with The Wall Street Journal flew a bit under the radar this week, eclipsed by his failed immigration stunt meeting, his racist rant about "shithole countries," and the news that his lawyer allegedly paid hush money to a porn star.
But Sanders is doing her best to highlight that disturbing interview by initiating a feud with the paper over a slight disagreement in transcription.
On the heels of a nuclear false alarm in Hawaii, Sanders tweeted out a belligerent note regarding a key quote in the WSJ interview.
She alleged that Trump had not said "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un, as the paper reported, but rather, "I'd probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 13, 2018
The difference is slight, but Sanders chose to make a mountain out of that molehill and the Journal responded by providing audio that backed up their reporting:
We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported. Here is audio of the portion the White House disputes. https://t.co/eWcmiHrXJg pic.twitter.com/bx9fGFWaPw
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 14, 2018
Minutes later, Sanders responded by releasing nearly identical audio, and claiming that it was proof Trump had been misquoted:
Here is the official audio showing WSJ misquoting @POTUS pic.twitter.com/wVwoafYkHg
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 14, 2018
The audio does, indeed, support WSJ's transcription, but a very generous-minded person could conclude that Trump had meant to say "I'd," or that a more sensitive microphone would have picked up the subtle inflection. Ordinarily, one could argue that Sanders' version makes more sense contextually.
Indeed, Trump himself left that sort of wiggle room Sunday morning when he tweeted that he had been misquoted, but then added that "they knew exactly what I said and meant."
The problem is that when pressed on the notion that he has a relationship with Kim Jong Un, Trump elected to leave that question in doubt (emphasis added):
"I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un," Mr. Trump said in an interview Thursday with The Wall Street Journal. "I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised."
Asked if he has spoken with Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said: "I dont want to comment on it. Im not saying I have or havent. I just dont want to comment."
Trump's reckless and erratic escalations with North Korea heightened the panic that Hawaiians felt during the nuclear false alarm that Trump blithely golfed through. And Sanders' self-initiated feud with the Journal only serves to remind people of Trump's dangerous incompetence.
It's also another telling episode from an administration that not only can't face reality, but expects Americans to accept lies in its place.