Public has grown tolerant or numb to lies told to it by elected officials and government, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist says
Office of Strategic Communication
In the United States, the trust of elected officials and government has declined over the years to the point where a large majority of people is more tolerant or numb to the lies being told to them, and it is especially evident with the Trump administration as compared to previous administrations, an award-winning journalist said.
“It’s not new that presidents of the United States, governments, government agencies, the Pentagon for example, has lied to the American people,” said journalist Lowell Bergman, who spoke at a Cal State San Bernardino forum. “The difference is the standard … There was a moral compass that says that’s not good. You should not lie. There is no real excuse for it, especially when you’re recorded saying it.”
“I think the difference today is we have a reality TV star playing himself as president and that’s a step beyond in certain ways its palatably different,” Bergman said. “You raise the Mueller Report. The Mueller Report has details many, many times when the president is saying things that are not true and appear to be a cover-up. That would not be tolerated in the age of Watergate, but today it passes at least for a large segment of the population.”
Bergman, a distinguished journalist and news producer with more than 50 years of experience in print and broadcast news, including CBS News’ 60 Minutes and Frontline, was the featured speaker at “The Abdication of Truth and the Decline of Public Trust,” a forum held at the CSUSB Santos Manuel Student Union Theatre.
The forum was presented by the Department of Public Administration in the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration in conjunction with Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society, which awarded Bergman the Pi Alpha Alpha award for Ethical Leadership.
Tom McWeeney, a professor in the Brown College’s Department of Public Administration, served as the event’s host. He said the theme of the forum was to discuss how the truthfulness from public officials and leaders has deteriorated.
“I believe and I know my colleagues believe that the stance of a public administration is that public officials who are serving the people who should be serving the people have an absolute moral obligation to be truthful in every aspect of their doings,” McWeeney said. “It’s not likely to be achieved.”
But he added that it was something that must be addressed.
McWeeney quoted then U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden who spoke at a public administration conference in Washington, D.C., a number of years ago.
“I don’t usually take everything Joe Biden says as gospel, but he raised this point when he said to a group of 200 public administration deans and chairs of department … ‘if it is not governance of public administration to address this issue, whose is it?’”
McWeeney said that statement has stuck with him ever since and that was the theme of the event.
Along with the discussion, the forum included various video clips of some of Bergman’s most noteworthy stories, including his reporting on the illegal/unethical practices of the tobacco industry.
Bergman was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the story. His role was depicted in the highly acclaimed film “The Insider,” in which Al Pacino played Bergman.
The video clips also included parts of the Frontline story, “Rape in the Fields,” where Bergman investigated allegations that female agricultural workers were often sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors to keep quiet or risk their immigrant status.
Bergman’s remarkable career in journalism included being a reporter for The New York Times and an executive producer at 60 Minutes, 20/20 news magazine and as a producer/correspondent for the PBS documentary series FRONTLINE.
Bergman is the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught a seminar dedicated to investigative reporting for more than 20 years. He is the founder of the school’s Investigative Reporting Program and chairman of its new nonprofit production company, Investigative Studios.
Bergman is also the recipient of numerous Emmys, five Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver and Golden Baton awards, three Peabody Awards, a George Polk Award in Journalism , a Sidney Hillman Award for Labor Reporting, a Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism, the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism, a Mirror Award from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and the James Madison Freedom of Information Award for Career Achievement from the Society of Professional Journalists.