Mr. President, near the beginning of the document that made us free, our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident...”
It is for that reason that I rise today, to talk about the truth, and its relationship to democracy. For without truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr. President, our democracy will not last.
Mr. President, so powerful is the presidency that the damage done by the sustained attack on the truth will not be confined to the president’s time in office. Here in America,
Of course, a major difference between politicians and the free press is that the press usually corrects itself when it gets something wrong. Politicians don’t.
No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a
Now, we are told via twitter that today the president intends to announce his choice for the “most corrupt and dishonest” media awards. It beggars belief that an American president would engage
And so, 2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it. In this effort, the choice is quite simple. And in this effort, the truth needs as many allies as possible. Together, my colleagues, we are
Together, united in the purpose to do our jobs under the Constitution,
It is not my purpose here to inventory all of the official untruths of the past year. But a brief survey is in order. Some untruths are trivial –
But many untruths are not at all trivial – such as the seminal untruth of the president’s political career - the oft-repeated conspiracy about the birthplace of President Obama.
To be very clear, to call the Russia matter a “hoax” – as the president has many times –
Ignoring or denying the truth about hostile Russian intentions toward the United States leaves us vulnerable to further attacks. We are told by our intelligence agencies that those attacks are ongoing,
Mr. President, let us be clear. The impulses underlying the dissemination of such untruths are not benign. They have the effect of eroding trust in our vital institutions and
Mr. President, every word that a president utters projects American values around the world. The values of free expression and a
But a recent report published in our free press should raise an alarm. Reading from the story:
“In February…Syrian President Bashar Assad brushed off an Amnesty International report that some 13,000 people had been killed at one of his
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has complained of being “demonized” by “fake news.” Last month, the report continues, with our President, quote “laughing by his side”
In July, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro complained to the Russian propaganda outlet, that the world media had “spread lots of false versions, lots of lies” about his country, adding, “This is what we call 'fake news' today, isn't it?”
“A state official in Myanmar recently said, “There is no such thing as Rohingya. It is fake news,” referring to the persecuted ethnic group. Leaders in Singapore, a country known for restricting free speech, have promised “fake news” legislation in the new year.”
We are not in a “fake news” era, as Bashar Assad says. We are, rather, in an era in which the authoritarian impulse is reasserting itself, to challenge free people and free societies, everywhere.
Any of us who have spent time in public life have endured news coverage we felt was jaded or unfair. But in our positions, to employ
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas,
Mr. President, the question of why the truth is now under such assault may
We are a mature democracy – it is well past time that we stop excusing or ignoring – or worse, endorsing -- these attacks on the truth. For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost.
“Then say, what is truth? 'Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o'er.
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal… unchanged… evermore.”
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
- Sen. Jeff Flake, speech to the Senate on Jan. 17, 2018.