Opinion

Let’s pump the breaks on the outrageous political hyperbole

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We all know former President Donald Trump plays fast and loose with the finer details of established facts, but his legacy should be a lesson to do better, not duplicate his standards. 

Repeating to a larger audience outlandish hearsay as fact doesn’t work in a courtroom. It doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) work for serious journalists. It’s high time we stop using it in political discourse. 

There’s no proof widespread fraud cost Trump his reelection bid. Plenty of people believed it happened. But there’s plenty of people who believe the Earth is flat or the Holocaust didn’t happen. It doesn’t make it true.  

As we head into the secretary of state race between incumbent Jocelyn Benson and likely Republican nominee Kristina Karamo, revisiting the 2020 election results is inevitable. 

Karamo launched he campaign from the ashes of Trump’s election night defeat. Conspiracy theories sprouted from the imaginations of angry sleep-deprived Trump backers as the former president’s slight lead in Michigan faded away amid the traditionally Democrat-heavy Wayne County vote. 

As a TCF Center election challenger, Karamo went on national news — or any other news — with her observations that a couple of ballots were incorrectly counted for Biden. It turns out that Karamo likely didn’t understand the workers’ terminology.  

Basically, speak first, ask questions later. 

It’s equally inexcusable for Secretary of State Benson, the state’s highest-ranking election official, to go on NBC News with the claim that Trump suggested in a White House meeting that she should be arrested for treason and executed. She based her claim on what she was told from a “source familiar with Trump’s White House meeting.” 

This allegedly happened 18 months ago. 

Remember, this is the same Trump who, as president, took great pride in his FBI dropping the hammer on those yahoos who were cooking up their plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

I’m not saying Trump did or didn’t make the statement in private. If he did, we don’t know the context or to whom he was speaking. Did he say it under his breath? Was he trying to crack a joke to close associates? We don’t know because Benson isn’t expanding on her statement. 

I do know that in the many Trump speeches I’ve listened to, he doesn’t directly advocate for someone to commit a violent act against another.  

Trump may be the master of bluster, bull crap and deception, but I’ve never heard him call for someone’s abduction. 

Detroit commentator Karen Dumas said on FOX2’s “Let It Rip” that Benson’s tardy claim sounds like an “unfortunate and failed attempt to bring some attention” to her campaign. Trying to drum up the sympathy vote with such shaky evidence as 18-month-old anonymous hearsay likely isn’t going to work. 

“It’s very poor handling of something that probably isn’t a very true statement,” Dumas said. 

Political consultant Sam Riddle added on the same program that he loves the secretary of state but, “Don’t play us. We’re not playable.” 

At the time Benson received the phone call, it was at the height of the election conspiracy claims. Benson and other elections officials were under an intense amount of scrutiny about “forensic” audits, black vans and tabulators connected to the Internet, etc. 

That’s still no excuse. 

Karamo signed onto a lawsuit challenging the results of the 2020 election. She is smacked around by CNN and other national outlets for suggesting on her podcast that Antifa was behind the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. She said pop stars Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish are “under a satanic delusion.” 

She said “most perpetrators of this rise in paganism and witchcraft are celebrities.” 

There’s plenty of material to use to paint Karamo as a conspiratorial whackjob if that’s the direction the Democratic Secretaries of State Association or Benson’s campaign wants to go. 

If Benson and the Democrats are going to go in that direction, though, Benson’s credibility needs to be beyond reproach. 

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