How about Lawrence O'Donnell?: Is it news? Is it news when the sitting American president makes the craziest possible factual claim about the day's most important topic?
Is it news when a sitting president is unaware of even the most basic facts concerning so major a topic?
We think that counts as news! Unfortunately, a long line of major journalists may also be unaware of those basic facts. Otherwise, why would they be praising Chris Wallace for his work with Donald J. Trump?
To what extent is Trump unaware of the most basic facts in the world? During Sunday's interview with Wallace, he ended up saying that the United States' mortality rate from covid-19 is the lowest in the world.
Absent some further explanation, it's hard to imagine being more ignorant of the world's most basic facts. Do we have the world's lowest mortality rate? Again, take a look at some numbers:
Total coronavirus deaths through July 20, per million populationDoes it look like we have the lowest mortality rate? More significantly, what does it mean when, in the face of such startling data, the sitting American president continues to say that we do?
United States: 433
South Korea: 6
We've lost 433 people per million to the coronavirus; Australia has lost only 5. Despite those facts, Donald J. Trump ended Sunday's exchange on this point by saying that we do have the world's lowest rate! He knew that because of a document he was handed by Kayleigh McEnany, courtesy of Dr. Birx!
This means that Trump has zero idea of the world's most basic facts. That said, we saw no sign that Wallace was familiar with those basic facts either. And the same can be said for a parade of major journalists who have now heaped praise on Wallace for the brilliant way he handled this topic on Sunday.
Consider Lawrence O'Donnell. Last night, he voiced several sharp criticisms of Wallace. He criticized Wallace for a question he didn't ask Trump, and for a few misstatements by Trump which he didn't challenge.
But O'Donnell fell all over himself praising Wallace for the way he handled the question about the mortality rates. He said that Wallace "did some spectacular fact-checking" on this point—that he handled the topic "masterfully."
Does O'Donnell have any idea what the basic data actually show? Does he realize how crazy Trump's statement actually was? We see no sign that he does.
In fairness, the same can be said about the Washington Post's Eric Wemple and Aaron Blake, each of whom has now praised Wallace for the way he handled this topic.
We've lost 433 people per million. Japan has lost only 8. Despite these extremely basic facts, the commander-in-chief ended his exchange with Wallace by insisting that we actually do have the world's lowest mortality rate.
Wallace said that Johns Hopkins disagrees. Neither Trump himself, nor Wallace's viewers, were exposed to those gobsmacking data.
We sometimes wonder if our biggest journalists are ever aware of any facts about even the most basic topics. That question arises again and again, and we don't really know the answer.
While we're at it: What did it say on the document Kayleigh handed to Trump?
Kayleigh said it came from Birx. What in the world—what on earth—could that document have said?
You'd think our journalists would be asking that question. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.