The Jury Talks Back


Three Examples to Show How Trump’s Statement about the Official Was False

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:15 am

If I’m going to spend my morning writing examples to demonstrate that Donald Trump denied the existence of the senior U.S. official quoted by the New York Times, I’m making a post out of it.

Let’s recall what Trump said:

The Failing ‪@nytimes‬ quotes “a senior White House official,” who doesn’t exist, as saying “even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.

This reduces to

#1: X quotes “a senior White House official,” who doesn’t exist, as saying Y. Wrong! Use real people as your sources.

And many are rewriting Trump’s statement to mean:

#2: X quotes a senior White House official as saying Y, but no “senior White House official who said Y” exists.

But those statements are not equivalent. So the rewriting changes the meaning.

In #2, the rewriting preferred by Trump defenders, the existence of the official-who-said-Y depends on his having said Y. But in #1, AS IT IS PHRASED, there is no such interdependence expressed by the speaker between the existence of the official and the nature of what he said. He is simply saying the official does not exist, independent of what he goes on to say about Y.

If you don’t like symbols, here are some hypotheticals and illustrations to make the point clearer.

1. If I said: “A witness described the Abominable Snowman, who does not exist, as being seven feet tall,” you would not read that as an assertion that my denial of the Snowman’s existence depends on his height.

2. Hypo: Trump says Obama wiretapped him. James Comey says: “Trump claims that a wiretap on his phone, which never existed, was placed on his phone by Obama. Wrong!” If it emerged (in the hypo) that there was a wiretap placed on Trump’s phone by someone in the Obama administration — but not by Obama himself — Comey still lied, by saying no wiretap existed.

No sensible person would write a piece saying Comey told the truth, because the wiretap on Trump’s phone that was placed by someone other than Obama means “a wiretap placed by Obama” did not exist.

3. If Obama had said: “National Review says the gender pay gap in my administration, which does not exist, has women making 90 cents for every dollar men make. That is wrong! Stop making up phony concepts!” you would read that as a denial of a pay gap in his administration. If it turned out that women actually made 91 cents in his administration for every dollar men made, instead of 90 cents, you would not say that he was correct to assert that the pay gap “does not exist” simply because the actual pay gap is different than as represented by National Review.

And if Obama said: “All I was saying was that no gender pay gap of 90 cents exists” you would say he is rewriting his statement to mean something different than what he actually had said.

People are rewriting Trump’s tweet to make it say something different. Look: I get that the New York Times inaccurately paraphrased the official. We can acknowledge that and criticize it. But he still exists, and Trump said he didn’t. Any argument to the contrary consists of rewriting #1 as #2, but they don’t mean the same thing.

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