During the panel discussion on the Sunday edition ABC’s This Week, panelist and PBS host Tavis Smiley declared that he was “tickled” by the birtherism surrounding Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz being perpetuated by “an unrepentant, irascible religious and racial arsonist” in Donald Trump who also “troubles” him in that the media hasn’t supposedly tried to project Trump on the entire GOP.

Interjecting with his thoughts on the near exhaustive coverage of whether Cruz is eligible to be president, Smiley explained that he’s “happy to see Donald Trump go after Cruz on this issue” since, in his mind, the Republican Party had been collectively “so aggressive going after President Obama” with the birtherism questions.

“Tavis Smiley: I’m ‘Tickled’ by Cruz Birtherism from ‘Unrepentant,’ ‘Racial Arsonist’ Trump,” NewsBusters, yesterday.


I recovered from my mistake because I was, as the title of the book suggests, able to “fail up”; that is, I took my failure in that moment and made it a stepping stone. I learned my lesson: Never again would I lazily let something pass on air as fact without double, triple, and quadruple checking. Not only did my earlier mistake jeopardize my integrity, it contributed to the public’s already-skeptical view on the media. This, ultimately, is a much more dangerous situation for all of us, as an untrustworthy news media puts our democracy at risk.

Thus the real danger in the artificial crisis over the president’s birth certificate is not Donald Trump becoming president, but a news media unwilling to apply a basic filter for what it publishes, posts and broadcasts. Failing to do so degrades the quality of news in general, making people less trusting and increasingly disinterested.

When nonstories fill the airwaves and dominate headlines, people stop paying attention and miss the real news. But more importantly when so much energy and so many resources are devoted to chasing a phantom issue, the real issues get ignored.

“Media helped inflate the birther story,” Tavis Smiley, CNN, May 2, 2011.