"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?"
--Donald Trump in an Associated Press interview
It's at that point where the interviewer is supposed to stop the interviewee and ask him, "You hear? Hear from where? What is your source?" News isn't unsubstantiated rumor and it isn't gossip. Also, interviewers who know what they're doing take into account what's known about the person making the comment.
You don't treat the statements of a habitual liar the same as those of a source that's been one hundred percent credible in the past. Trump is, in fact, a habitual liar. When he's caught he goes on to another lie and stops talking about the last lie.
Here's something else he said about President Obama in an interview last month: "The reason I have a little doubt, just a little, is because he grew up and nobody knew him. You know? When you interview people, if ever I got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you can go back and interview people from my kindergarten and they remember me. No one ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in his life. It's very strange. The whole thing is very strange."
How can such comments be taken seriously by a responsible news media? They can't. At the very least a real interviewer would have to ask Trump the nature of his effort to find people who knew Obama when he was a child because in fact there are hundreds of people who have come forward to share their memories.
If Trump actually looked for them, he's an awfully bad investigator. If he didn't look - and very clearly he didn't - why isn't he directly challenged on it? Evidently when you don't grow up in exclusive circles surrounded by fabulous wealth - as was Trump -- then "nobody" knows you, and there's no reason to question the reliability of the conclusion.
News media need to understand their mission, and it's not to treat garbage with the same seriousness as the results of a competent study. When they behave otherwise, we need to hold their feet to the fire. Also, it's worth asking why Trump, thanks to a long history of this kind of behavior, leads Republican polls for the presidential nomination. Partly because he's enabled by an incompetent, unscrupulous news media. Partly because this is the kind of guy so many Republican voters are looking for. Eventually they'll settle down and find a smoother liar. That may or may not be an improvement.
Causes Ivan Goldman Supports
American Heart Association
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Beit T'Shuvah Recovery Program