On Monday, the Trump campaign launched a hilarious new parody website called “Truth Over Facts.” It mocks presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s numerous gaffes by launching an “investigation” into their hidden meaning. The website’s title comes from Biden’s notorious declaration that, unlike Trump, “We choose unity over division. We choose science over fiction. We choose truth over facts.”
The website is genius — and hilarious! Yet more hilarious still was the reaction of left-leaning journalists — some of them Pulitzer Prize winners — who not only took it seriously but condemned the Trump campaign for allegedly spouting “Orwellian” “propaganda.”
The least bit of true investigation would have demonstrated just how much of a parody the website truly is. For example, here is the “Truth Over Facts” launch video, displayed prominently on the website and the very first result on Google. Warning: this is not safe for serious people. It had me in stitches. Do not watch if you are not in a position to laugh your arse off.
Yet our regular Woodward and Bernsteins in the press didn’t get the joke. It flew right over their poor little heads.
Christina Wilkie, a White House reporter for CNBC, drew attention to the Trump campaign press release with these words: “So I guess the war on facts has a name now.”
Senior HuffPost reporter Jonathan Cohn replied, “Fiction stranger than truth. Or facts, as the case may be.”
Fiction stranger than truth. Or facts, as the case may be.
— Jonathan Cohn (@CitizenCohn) May 18, 2020
Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston tweeted, “File under Crazy Trump Stuff You Can’t Make Up #3,124.” (He should have said, “Crazy Joe Biden Quotes You Can’t Make Up.”)
File under Crazy Trump Stuff You Can't Make Up #3,124: pic.twitter.com/vGXQc0WQQw
— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) May 18, 2020
Rus McLaughlin, a senior content strategist at Facebook and former features writer for IGN, apparently doesn’t have a funny bone in his body. “Trump’s launching a website called Truth Over Facts to attack Biden. So he’s now openly separating ‘truth’ and ‘facts’ into separate categories. Like demagogues, authoritarians, and dictators always do. So they can create their own ‘truth.’ Even though it’s a lie,” he tweeted.
Trump’s launching a website called Truth Over Facts to attack Biden.
So he’s now openly separating “truth” and “facts” into separate categories. Like demagogues, authoritarians, and dictators always do.
So they can create their own “truth.”
Even though it’s a lie. pic.twitter.com/V0kwFVtLjp
— Rus McLaughlin (@rusmclaughlin) May 18, 2020
ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran also took it seriously. “I genuinely do not understand what they mean here. Facts are bad? Don’t believe facts? Trump’s truth is more powerful than any facts one may learn? When did they hire Eric Blair??” (“George Orwell” was Eric Blair’s pen name.)
From the Trump campaign, the launch of a new website:
“Truth Over Facts.”
I genuinely do not understand what they mean here.
Facts are bad?
Don’t believe facts?
Trump’s truth is more powerful than any facts one may learn?
When did they hire Eric Blair?? pic.twitter.com/Tw30uupFMQ
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) May 18, 2020
Washington Post analyst Elliot Smilowitz at least had the self-awareness to suspect he was misreading the site. “am i misreading or is the trump campaign announcing a plan to create and stoke conspiracy theories about biden?” Smilowitz tweeted. Yes, it’s all about stoking conspiracy theories, and not about satire at all. Just like the Babylon Bee.
am i misreading or is the trump campaign announcing a plan to create and stoke conspiracy theories about biden? https://t.co/M37wqwSiyH
— Elliot Smilowitz (@SmiloTweets) May 18, 2020
The Daily Beast’s Editor-at-Large Molly Jong-Fast, also a contributor to The Bulwark, said of the satirical campaign site, “how very Orwellian.”
How very Orwellian https://t.co/ZJluTYOtoJ
— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@MollyJongFast) May 18, 2020
Vox Editor-at-Large Ezra Klein also read into the website launch. “If you’d written a satire of the Trump administration where they launched a campaign called ‘Truth Over Facts’ it would’ve been dismissed as heavyhanded and unfair,” he tweeted.
When the campaign responded by noting the Biden gaffe, Klein doubled down. “To make my point clear: It’s amazingly audacious for the Trump campaign to try and weaponize it. ‘Truth over facts’ is just ‘take him seriously, not literally.’ The entire Trump justification is he doesn’t worry about facts, but he expresses some kind of guttural or emotional truth even so, while all these persnickety factual reporters are lying in a deeper, more directional way,” he tweeted.
The entire Trump justification is he doesn't worry about facts, but he expresses some kind of guttural or emotional truth even so, while all these persnickety factual reporters are lying in a deeper, more directional way.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) May 18, 2020
So, rather than laughing at the hilarious meme, Klein is trying to twist a campaign joke into a deep revealing Freudian slip.
One journalist, a news editor at Gamespot by the name of Mat Elfring, not only took the jokes seriously but also accused Trump of “using taxpayer money to [fund] a propaganda campaign.” Perhaps Elfring finally got the joke, perhaps he thought twice about accusing the Trump campaign of violating campaign finance laws. In any case, he deleted the tweet — but don’t worry, I got a screenshot. (And should any of the other journalists wise up, I’ve got screenshots of their tweets, too.)
I am highly tempted to write a complex philosophical argument against these numbskull journalists, but that’s not the point. The point is, the Trump campaign put out a piece of comedy gold that mocks Joe Biden, and all these Trump Derangement Syndrome-addled journalists read it as an admission of “propaganda.”
Perhaps this is an indictment of the left-leaning press bubble that apparently forgot to report on Biden’s “truth over facts” gaffe. Perhaps it’s an indictment of the journalists themselves, who refuse to joke about such weighty matters as “Orange Man Bad.” I don’t know.
It’s particularly sad these journalists can’t take a joke. But it’s also almost as hilarious as the “Truth Over Facts” website itself.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.