Indian-born HuffPost White House reporter Shirish (or S.V.) Date set the table for viral video and CNN and MSNBC delight on Thursday night by bald-facedly asking the president if he has any regrets about his energetic lying. This should not be that surprising for the website we've called "Huffington's House of Horrors."
It was notorious in the Bush years for poisonous pieces against the administration by actors like John Cusack ("I piss down the throats of these Nazis") and Alec Baldwin (Cheney's a "lying, thieving oil whore"), and the journalist Peter Mehlman, who insisted Hitler was a better man than George W. Bush.
The Washington Post described Date's moral lecturing this way:
“Mr. President, after three and a half years, do you regret at all, all the lying you’ve done to the American people?” Dáte asked.
Trump looked confused. “What?” he asked.
“All the lying. All the dishonesties,” Dáte repeated.
“That who has done?” Trump asked.
“You have done,” Dáte said.
Trump paused briefly, then called on another reporter without answering.
The blunt exchange quickly went viral on Twitter, garnering millions of views by Friday morning and offering a new chapter in the fraught history of White House correspondents trying to hold Trump publicly accountable for his falsehoods.
The only thing Shirish failed to do was throw his shoes at the president's head in contempt. He then tweeted his immense self-satisfaction: "For five years I've been wanting to ask him that."
After an obligatory nod to its Fact Checker alleging 20,000 "false or misleading statements" by Trump, the Post noted Date ran unsuccessfully for president of the White House Correspondents Association and railed in a letter to colleagues about Trump's "Stalinist" language against the press. In the Obama years, Date was an editor for taxpayer-supported National Public Radio.
All this reminds me of when the HuffPost first took a turn at the White House press briefing at Obama's first White House press conference in February of 2009. Obama called out for Sam Stein's question, and it was an anti-Bush doozy.
SAM STEIN: Today Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that before you turn the page, you have to read the page first. Do you agree with such a proposal? And are you willing to rule out, here and now, any prosecution of Bush administration officials?”
Obama deferred, saying he hadn't seen any proposal, but insisted they wouldn't "torture" and would follow the rule of law. He didn't concentrate on the South African apartheid-echo of a "truth and reconciliation" committee for Bush/Cheney. At the time, liberal reporters applauded Stein's inquiry on CNN:
[Margaret] Carlson first joked that Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington had “popped the champagne and cheered, because this is what bloggers have been waiting for, and he got it.” [Gwen] Ifill then interjected that Stein “had a perfectly reasonable question.” Carlson agreed, and continued that “Huffington Post is as much a player in this last campaign, and now in this White House coverage, as anybody.”
...Ifill then repeated her “reasonable” point: “I was interested to hear what the president had to say, which was not much, because it was off-topic, but it was perfectly reasonable to ask it."