UPDATED with video No sugarcoating or he said-he said tonight: CNN’s Jake Tapper told Bill Maher that President Donald Trump has brought new levels of dishonesty to the Beltway.
“I’ve never really seen this level of falsehood,” Tapper said on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher tonight. “Just quantitatively. It’s not just ‘If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor,’ it’s conspiracy theories based on nothing that have members of his own party distancing themselves from him.”
Tapper, who hosts CNN’s The Lead and and State Of The Union, was answering Maher’s question about how his job has changed since Trump took office, with Maher pointing out what other media critics have noted: Tapper “sounds different” lately, taking a blunter approach in “speaking truth to crazy.”
“Politicians lie,” Tapper said. “It wasn’t invented on January 20.” But Trump, he suggested, has upped the dishonesty quotient by combining conspiracy theories with “an attempt to discredit the entire fourth estate, the entire media, we’re all fake news except for Fox & Friends.”
Tapper, interviewed by Maher during an unusual mid-show one-on-one segment, said he refuses to “buy into the paradigm” posed by Maher that the media risks being called biased by criticizing Trump.
“The truth of the matter is that there’s no bias when it comes to facts and there’s no bias when it comes to decency,” Tapper said. “It is empirically indecent to make fun of the disabled. You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican or Independent or socialist or libertarian. That is just indecent. My children know better than that.”
The one-on-one Tapper segment marked a slight format shift from the standard Real Time — typically the mid-show guest joins the already-in-progress panel discussion, which tonight was down one guest from the usual three. (No conspiracy theories needed to explain that one, Maher warned at the top of the show: “We’ve done this before, but all next week I’ll hear, ‘Bill, did someone not show up?’ No, this is the way I want it.” Besides, he joked, with tonight’s panelists, journalist Andrew Sullivan and former congressman Barney Frank, a third guest wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise.)
Maher’s congrats to Tapper aside, the Real Time host resumed his recent lambasting of the media tonight, criticizing MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for her “hyped” reveal of a portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns.
“This was worse than a nothingburger,” Maher said. “It was a helptrumpburger.” The tax returns, which indicated Trump paid $38 million that year, “was probably the best tax return he’s ever filed, which makes me think this came from Donald Trump.
“If we’re going to win this, we can’t get played. This was getting played.”
When Sullivan agreed, criticizing Maddow for sounding “condescending and smug” and suggested she engage “the other side by persuading people,” Frank got off the best quip of the night by telling the outspoken writer he “might want to teach by example on that one.”
Actually, maybe that was just the second-best quip of the night. When Maher snarked that “Jake Tapper” sounds like the best porn name in the news business, the CNN anchor responded, “I’m glad you’re familiar with my earlier work.”