“Mr. President, are you sorry for three and a half years for all the lies you have made to the American people?” Dáte asked.
Trump looked confused. “What?” he asked.
“All lies. All dishonesty, ”Dáte repeated.
“That who has done?” Asked Trump.
Trump paused briefly, then called for another reporter without responding.
The blunt exchange quickly went viral on Twitter, garnering millions of views Friday morning, featuring a new chapter in White House correspondents trying to hold Trump publicly accountable for his untruths.
As president, Trump has been a wonderful spreader of misinformation. As of July, he has made more than 20,000 false or misleading allegations while in office, according to an ongoing report from The Washington Post’s factchecker. He has done so at an even greater rate in the last 14 months, speaking on average 23 demands a day as the nation has been burned by a lawsuit and a pandemic.
Trump’s regular untruths, combined with long stretches without briefings and the president’s open hostility to the press, have created historic challenges for journalists covering the White House, as Posten’s Paul Farhi has reported.
Dáte, a veteran journalist and author who spent more than three decades in business, including the Palm Beach Post and Associated Press, before joining HuffPost, has been particularly aggressive in urging his colleagues to push back on Trump’s improbability.
In an email to his colleagues last year, Dáte urged journalists to “be more concerned about being lied to as a matter of course – and the American public is being lied to for us through us than about access.”
“I’ve been in this business for more than three decades, and what’s happening now is unprecedented,” Dáte wrote as part of a failed pitch to become president of the White House correspondent association. “We are attacked almost daily by Stalinist language. We are called corrupt and dishonest. We get fake information from staff who often know full well that it is wrong. “
Dáte has also written about the effects of Trump’s misinformation. In a January piece, Dáte called Trump’s repeated falsehoods “exhausting.”
“I have never encountered a public official, a candidate for civil servant, a bureaucrat, a defense attorney or, frankly, an actual criminal who is as regularly and aggressively dishonest as the current president of the United States. And that includes a dozen years covering the Florida legislature, ”he wrote at the time.
The most worrying result, he suggested, was that Trump’s daily misinformation has become so common that it rarely gets much attention.
“It is no longer newsworthy that the person who leads the world’s most powerful nation and commander of the most destructive arsenal in human history is unreliable to his core,” he wrote.
As for what drove his decision to ask Trump such a direct question about his untrue on Thursday, Dáte did not immediately respond to a message from The Post. But on Twitter, he suggested the query had been on his mind for some time.
“For five years I have wanted to ask him for it,” Dáte tweeted.