The Kool-Aid on tap in Trump Tower must be pretty powerful stuff. At least that’s the only conclusion one can draw from the Monday afternoon appearance on CNN by Michael Cohen, an executive vice president in the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
In an interview with Jake Tapper, Cohen was asked to explain one of the many literally unbelievable statements that have come out of his boss’s mouth during the five months that he’s dominated the Republican presidential primary.
Tapper was focused on Trump’s claim – debunked by all relevant public officials and unsupported by any hard evidence – that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were dancing in the streets in celebration of the 9/11 attacks.
How did Cohen explain that there is no credible evidence for Trump’s claim?
Unsurprisingly, Cohen used the by now standard Trumpian defense that if “hundreds” of people on Twitter agree with him, he must be right.
But then, showing that he has learned from the master, Cohen took the claim even further.
It’s become predictable, really. Like a fighter pilot who knows a missile has locked on to his plane, when Trump or one of his surrogates spots a line of questioning that threatens the candidate’s claims, they respond by throwing off clouds of chaff – in this case more claims and assertions that confuse the discussion and make it harder for a questioner to home in on the main issue.
Cohen vaguely insisted that, “over this weekend, at a function that I was attending, I had a significant number of people turn around and say, ‘It wasn’t just taking place in Jersey City. It also took place on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.’”
But there’s no evidence any of that happened, Tapper pointed out.
And then came the most awkward and, to be honest, hilarious moment of the interview.
“I’ve worked for Mr. Trump now, for a long time,” Cohen said, “and I can tell you that Mr. Trump's memory is fantastic. I've never come across a situation that Mr. Trump has said something that is not accurate.”
“There are …” Tapper began, before pausing, as though taking in what he’d just heard.
“Seriously?” he asked, somewhat incredulously.
“Yeah, seriously,” Cohen responded, with a completely straight face.
Bear in mind that Trump, in the five months he’s been in the race for the presidency, has pumped a really extraordinary volume of lies, misinformation and exaggeration into the public discourse.
Tapper’s one word question -- “Seriously?” -- may not by itself look like a milestone in the media’s reaction to the Donald Trump candidacy. But it is one more indication that mainstream media outlets are getting tired of allowing objectively false statements – commonly known as lies – to go unchallenged, at least when it comes to Trump.
As the conversation continued, Tapper challenged Trump’s statements about his apparent mocking of a disabled reporter at a rally last week. Tapper eventually thanked Cohen for showing up and taking his questions.
The CNN interview happened a little more that 24 hours after Trump himself had a well-documented throw-down with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, who pushed back hard when Trump again claimed that American Muslims celebrated the attacks by the thousands, saying flatly, “This didn’t happen.”
As always, making predictions about Trump is a treacherous game – he’s consistently defied the expectations of most pundits ever since entering the race. Slowly but surely, though, it’s beginning to look like a Trump campaign that has lived on free media may have to find a way to avoid dying by it.