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Experts warn that Trump's 'big lie' will outlast his presidency

CNN's Brian Stelter examines the coverage by pro-Trump media like Fox News, Newsmax and OAN and the part it played leading up to the riot that breached the US Capitol.

Posted: Jan 11, 2021 12:11 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2021 12:11 PM

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

So many lies led up to last Wednesday's riot in Washington. Now there are new lies being proffered on the right-wing web to defend the indefensible. And President Trump's cheering section is desperately trying to bury the riot down the memory hole.

Speaking of memories, let's go back in time. One week ago on our "Reliable Sources" telecast, "On Tyranny" author Timothy Snyder warned that "we are now moving dangerously towards the territory of a big lie." He said "the idea that Mr. Biden didn't win the election is a big lie. It's a big lie because you have to disbelieve all kinds of evidence to believe in it. It's a big lie because you have to believe in a huge conspiracy in order to believe it. And it's a big lie because, if you believe it, it demands you take radical action. So this is one way we have really moved forwards towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. It's coming to a peak right now."

Wednesday was the peak -- maybe. Every day, more evidence of the attack comes to light. Much more reporting is still needed. I agree with Yashar Ali, who said Sunday night: "I feel like we know just 5% of the insurrection story."

But we also need to look ahead. As Jake Tapper said at the end of "SOTU" on Sunday: "Will there be any consequences? Will Kevin McCarthy remain the Republican leader of the House?" Are Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley "just going to be allowed to pick up their committee assignments and try to move on? And what about the President of the United States? Will he be allowed to fly out of Washington on January 19th to spend his days luxuriating on the golf course, spreading more lies through the TV networks that were also part of this treason?"

Tapper concluded: "What happens to us? What happens to our country if we continue to pretend leaders who played a role in this attempted coup, in this terrorist attack, end up doing just fine without no consequences at all? Will January 6th, 2021 be remembered as only the beginning?"

Was Wednesday the peak, or just the beginning?

That's what brings me back around to Snyder, whose book has skyrocketed back to #1 on Amazon. He wrote the cover story for next week's New York Times Magazine, and it is already online. The story is another warning, and it inspired the headline of tonight's newsletter.

"The lie outlasts the liar," Snyder wrote. "The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish 'stab in the back' was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump's myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?"

He concluded that "America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good." Read on...

Trump will be impeached, unless...

Right now CNN.com's headline says the House "will move quickly on impeachment if push for 25th Amendment fails."

"It will be the first time any American president has been impeached for a second time," Wolf Blitzer said on air Sunday night.

→ Big picture: More than 104 hours have elapsed since Trump incited a riot at the Capitol. And he is still in office.

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