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Our view: Skepticism is healthy; cynicism is destructive

By the Editorial Board
updated: 1/12/2018 10:27 AM

From a distance, it's hard to know how much credence to give Michael Wolff's explosive new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

It's clear Wolff had extraordinary access to the White House. At the same time, Paul Farhi of The Washington Post has penned a critique of Wolff's past work that should make anyone approach Fire and Fury with some healthy skepticism.

Frankly, we're fans of healthy skepticism. We believe citizenship in a democracy starts with critical thinking. It is healthy to have a diverse array of information sources and to use each to add to your perspective and understanding.

The news media is not sacrosanct, and worthwhile criticism of it is valuable. We're all human and we all get things wrong.

But beware of the temptation to blindly accept one news source and blindly reject another; beware of the temptation to blindly embrace one perspective and blindly oppose another.

Skepticism is healthy. Cynicism is destructive.

This is a bedrock message we preach to our journalists. It is a message that applies to you too.

Our primary objection to President Trump's criticism of the news media is his blanket condemnations that lack either specificity or substantiation.

Typical last week was press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' refusal to point out errors in Wolff's book because she wasn't going to "waste ... the country's time." It would hardly be a waste of the country's time.

More wasteful is the cynicism the Trump administration sows toward the institutions that are vital to the republic's health -- self-serving campaigns to erode confidence in the news media, the courts, the FBI, the intelligence community, the "deep state" malarkey peddled only to undermine our system of checks and balances.

This is the stuff that autocrats do, not American presidents.

As to Fire and Fury, Trump's lawyers say Bannon violated confidentiality agreements, as if Trump is a business, as if he is Oprah. We ask, why should there be confidentiality agreements? Trump no longer is a business. He is the president.

And while necessary security secrets need to be protected, history and the country's well-being demand an accounting of his presidency.

Facts matter. Support a free press.

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